SALISBURY, MD---A quarter century ago condominiums on the Eastern Shore seemed like a quaint notion. No one dreamed the future held a state prison for Somerset County, the possibility of demise for the historic Trimper’s Rides in Ocean City or a name change for Salisbury State College.
All that is part of history now—the type the Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture at Salisbury University was established to preserve. Created in 1982, the center hosts a gala to celebrate its 25th anniversary and honor founders Ray Thompson and Sylvia Bradley 5:30-8:30 p.m. Saturday, November 3, in the Commons at SU. Tickets are $75 per person and include a buffet dinner and silent auction.
In 1982, SU History Department professors Bradley and Thompson conceived the idea of having an archive which gathered original historical materials not just from Maryland but from Virginia and Delaware as well: a regional historical research center. There were no others like it in the United States at that time nor for at least a decade later. From a file drawer in Bradley’s office, the research center has grown over the years into 6,000 square feet of operational space.
Since its inception, the center has been dedicated to preserving the rich historical and cultural heritage of the greater Delmarva region. The idea of the center began with Dr. Thompson’s discovery that the Delmarva area holds the oldest continuous historical records in British-speaking America.
“It was a wonderful finding,” he said. “Few people have any idea of the historic uniqueness of our area.” At the time of this discovery, Bradley was concerned that a lack of awareness of the career possibilities afforded by a history degree was leaving many students reluctant to enter the discipline. As a result, Thompson and Bradley began collecting regional materials in a filing cabinet and developing courses designed to teach students skills in museology, historical architecture, and archival management and preservation, among other topics.
Despite the historical and cultural richness of the area, students still struggled to locate materials. There was no central facility devoted to the collection of original records from Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware at the time; these valuable materials were strewn across thirty-six different locations. Hoping to develop a central repository for Delmarva’s historic sources, Thompson and Bradley expanded the initial filing cabinet of materials. This effort brought into being the Delmarva Historical Archives, which grew into the 6,000 square feet of operational space the center currently occupies.
In 1997, the William E. Donner Foundation created an endowment in the memory of Dr. Wilcomb E. Washburn. The following year, Dorchester County attorney and philanthropist Edward H. Nabb established a $500,000 endowment to support the mission of the center, and the research facility became the Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture.
Among its many services, the center preserves original materials, safeguards an extensive archive, conducts classes and workshops, assists academic and vocational researchers in projects, develops educational exhibits and produces numerous publications.
The center has been recognized by the Maryland Historical Trust and received the American Association for State and Local History Award for its continuing efforts to maintain a regional Delmarva archive. The center also has received a number of grants recognizing its success and promoting its purpose.
Funds raised during the gala benefit the Nabb Research Center’s continuous upkeep and document preservation efforts. For tickets, RSVP to Nabb Research Center, Inc., 1101 Camden Ave., Salisbury, MD 21801, listing attendees. Checks should be payable to the Salisbury University Foundation, Inc., with “25th Anniversary Celebration” in the memo line. Tickets should be purchased by Wednesday, October 24.
For more information call 410-543-6312 or visit the center’s Web site at http://nabbhistory.salisbury.edu.