HB resident Doug Dixon puts local history at your fingertips

Doug Dixon

Thanksgiving is a time for family and tradition, and the Hopewell Valley has a lot to be thankful for in the preservation of 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. Over many decades, volunteers with these organizations have assembled donated historic artifacts and proactively sought out stories of residents to capture the fleeting stories of our past.

One amazing volunteer is Doug Dixon, a resident of Hopewell Borough. MercerMe sat down with him over zoom recently to talk about the projects he is working on. It turns out that COVID-19 was a driving force in a new initiative to make the preserved history accessible.

Dixon and a small group of volunteers had been meeting weekly, before COVID, to evaluate 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 would be closing for the quarantine. They looked at each other, shrugged, and said: “Might as well take home the boxes we’ve been working on.”

Thus began a year and a half odyssey of figuring out what they had and putting it into a format that the public could access. Dixon had the perfect background for that – his work prior to retirement was in digital media, specifically in understanding large datasets  and writing applications. What emerged from that is the Hopewell Valley History Project, an enormous – and still growing – repository of digital archives.

Some of those archives include the Historical Society’s oral history project. Initiated in the 1970s, project volunteers take tape recorders (now digital recorders) to interview long-time Valley residents. The recordings are then transcribed. Up until now, the transcriptions were shelved in the archives but Dixon, Grant, and the other volunteers have also taken on the job of summarizing the transcripts and making them available online so the public can read them. 

The Hopewell History Project also includes a collection of historic maps, photographs, artwork, books, pamphlets, and reference guides. There is so much there it is easy to lose an afternoon looking at photographs from long 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 both the Hopewell and Pennington trains stations, both which were built in 1876, and the photographers and artists who captured them.

Hopewell Train Stations: History and Art – Wednesday, December 1, 2021 – 7 pm.
Attend  in person at the Hopewell Theater – masks required; or register on line 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 site for more information and references 

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