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Four years after her death, the historical archive and papers of Regina Combs Hammett have been donated to St. Mary’s College of Maryland for preservation and cataloging.
Hammett, the official historian of St. Mary’s County from 1988 to 2010, wrote “History of St. Mary’s County, Maryland 1634-1990,” and was editor of the Chronicles of St. Mary’s for 12 years. She graduated from St. Mary’s College in 1964 when it was still a junior college and returned to earn a bachelor’s degree in history in 1972 at the age of 42.
Among the 12 feet of materials donated to the college by Hammett’s family are her notes and files compiled for researching her book and more raw files that were to be used for a second book, about the old one- and two-room schoolhouses of St. Mary’s County.
Hammett’s archives will be catalogued and the public is welcome to exam her papers at the archives office at St. Mary’s College. “We’re going to err on the side of too much access,” said Kent Randell, St. Mary’s College archivist.
In opening one of several boxes of notes and files in his office on the lower level of Calvert Hall, he said, “It is really quite random. Twelve feet of dense, valuable stuff.” There are 12 one-foot boxes of material and in calling it dense, Randell said it means “it’s all usable.”
In just one box about local schools there were enrollment records, class photos with names included from the 1920s and random miscellaneous notes on the numerous small schoolhouses that once dotted the crossroads of the county.
Randell estimated cataloguing Hammett’s archives would be an 80-hour project. He has three students available to assist him in the work. “And we’ll do only this,” Randell said. “And then having the student help, you can plow through so much work.”
When the work is done, subject files and old photos will be posted on the college’s archives website, Randell said.
The papers themselves will be stored in a climate-controlled environment with fire suppression at the college’s archives.
Hammett’s son, Donnie Hammett, said, “There were several worthy goals for the papers, but St. Mary’s College seemed to have the best resources for cataloguing, caring for, storing and making available electronically to every body who wanted to delve in ... for what Mom had compiled together.
“The college has access to student, or paid help and professional help to catalogue and better organize,” he said. “Mom knew what she had and what it was but it wasn’t in such a way as the college would be able to do. We decided that would be the best hold for it.”
Randell said of Hammett’s history book, “It’s really a reference book. I always have it at arm’s reach.” As part of her research, Hammett collected small publications that were only printed and distributed on a limited basis, like church histories. “It’s a pretty complete collection of little publications,” he said.
After Hammett died in April 2010 at the age of 80, John Hanson Briscoe, then president of the St. Mary’s County Historical Society, wrote in the Chronicles of St. Mary’s, “Whenever we have to find an answer to a question about the history of the county, we turn to the ‘red book’ on our bookshelves, close by on top of our desk, or on the table beside our bed.”
Donnie Hammett said, “I’m still finding things as recently as two days ago,” in his mother’s collection, which he took to the college.