HB resident Doug Dixon puts local history at your fingertips

Thanksgiving is a time for family and tradition, and the Hopewell Valley has much to be thankful for for preserving our interesting and deep history.

The Hopewell Valley Historical Society and the Hopewell Museum are both rich resources, especially for the history of the boroughs of Pennington and Hopewell. For many decades, volunteers from these organizations have collected donated historical artifacts and proactively researched residents’ stories to capture fleeting stories from our past.

An extraordinary volunteer is Doug Dixon, a resident of Hopewell Borough. MercerMe recently sat down with him on Zoom to talk about the projects he’s working on. It turns out that COVID-19 has been a driving force in a new initiative to make preserved history accessible.

Dixon and a small group of volunteers had met weekly, before COVID, to assess and index the Historical Society’s archives, which are housed at the Mercer County Library, Hopewell branch. He and the Society’s archivist, Bonita Grant, were in the library when the announcement was made that it was going to close for quarantine. They looked at each other, shrugged their shoulders and said, “You might as well take home the boxes that we worked on.

So began a year and a half odyssey to find out what they had and put it in a format accessible to the public. Dixon had the perfect background for this – his pre-retirement job was in digital media, particularly in understanding large datasets and writing applications. What came out was the Hopewell Valley History Project, a huge – and still growing – repository of digital archives.

Some of these archives include the Oral History Project of the Historical Society. Started in the 1970s, project volunteers use tape recorders (now digital recorders) to interview longtime residents of the valley. The recordings are then transcribed. Until now, the transcripts have been kept in the archives, but Dixon, Grant and the other volunteers have also taken it upon themselves to summarize the transcripts and make them available online for the public to read.

The Hopewell History Project also includes a collection of historical maps, photographs, artwork, books, brochures and reference guides. There is so much there that it’s easy to waste an afternoon looking at photographs from a long time ago.

This Wednesday, December 1, you can meet Dixon in person or on zoom as he presents “Hopewell Trains Stations: History and Art”. Dixon will talk about the Hopewell and Pennington stations, both built in 1876, and the photographers and artists who captured them.

Hopewell Stations: History and Art – Wednesday, December 1, 2021 – 7 p.m.
To assist in person at the Hopewell Theater – compulsory masks; Where Sign up online for the zoom session.
Hopewell Public Library Wednesday Night Out Lecture Series; co-sponsored by the Hopewell Valley Historical Society and the Hopewell Museum – see the Hopewell Valley History Project website for more information and references

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