When our team first saw the files, they were not in order, having been rescued from an abandoned school house in Loudoun. We were also aware of privately held documents in history clubs like the Lovettsville Historical Society, the Prosperity Baptist Church in Conklin (South Riding, Loudoun County), the Balch Library in Leesburg, and institutions such Virginia State University, Swarthmore and others. Therefore, in addition to needing to develop a preservation plan for what is a very fragile archive of historically important material, we also needed to organize the documents, photographs and other artifacts to enable easy access by ordinary citizens (who have a right to know their past) and academics. The scheme used was developed by Larry Roeder, MS, then on the faculty/staff of the Department of Library/Information Science (LIS) at the Catholic University of America.
We also needed funds and volunteers, as the entire project is privately financed. Many have volunteered their time and we also organized as an incorporated 501©(3). As a result, many citizens from around the Loudoun, the region and the country have donated, enabling the purchase of specialized software, preservation materials and computers.
Each document and book is scanned and filed in preservation boxes organized along the following 15 categories. In addition, when a document deals with more than one topic, a copy is filed in each relevant topic’s digital folder in a set of hard drives, one of which is always kept in a fire-proof safe. Our plan is to then produce a database in 2019 enabling full access to all documents, the exception being those protected by state law.
We will also provide a set of other tools, catalogs, spread sheets, etc. to enable easy access to our holdings, as well as a set of analytical reports explaining life in the school system. That entire package is called Dirt Don’t Burn, the title of which is inspired by a school teacher who complained about running out of coal and wood one very cold winter.
According to the Country School Association of America, our effort is the most comprehensive in the country; therefore it is important to point out that we could not have done this without the help of Loudoun County Public Schools. We also want to thank the NAACP which was a major leader in early efforts by the African American community to acquire fair education, the Balch Library, the Black History Committee of the Friends of the Balch Library, Lovettsville Historical Society, the members of the Prosperity Baptist Church, Wynne Saffer, Gene Scheel, the Oatlands Historic House and Gardens, and the archives of the Circuit Court of Loudoun County.