Construction on a new fireproof, climate-controlled vault designed to house historical artifacts and archives in Freeport has been completed.

The roughly $600,000 vault is part of the long-term vision for Freeport Historical Society, which is located in downtown off Main Street.

The two-story, roughly 900-square-foot-per-floor vault connects to the organization’s main building and also includes 2,000 lineal feet of museum-grade shelving as well as fire suppression and security systems.

“It’s built like a fortress,” said Jim Cram, director emeritus of the Freeport Historical Society.

The vault is part of a larger project on Freeport Historical Society’s campus, which includes renovations on two other buildings that will add office, research and exhibit space as well as improved accessibility. Ground was broken in December 2020, although the entire process including design took about five years. In total, the project is estimated to cost $1.5 million, and will likely be wrapped up by December 2021.

Jim Cram, director emeritus of the Freeport Historical Society, standing inside the new vault. C. Thacher Carter/ The Times Record.

According to Freeport Historical Society Interim Executive Director Eric C. Smith, the vault’s temperature is regulated at about 62 degrees and 40-44% humidity. At times, moving the artifacts can be a delicate process, he said.

“You have to be very careful about what you move in terms of objects from a rather humid summer into that space,” said Smith. “So, the paintings for example won’t move until winter when they’ve sort of naturally cooled and dried to put in, because otherwise you would have the canvas completely shrinking and pulling away from the paint.”

Audrey Wolfe, the collection and education manager at Freeport Historical Society, began moving in archives like old municipal files, books, textiles, maps, letters, photographs and media collections into the vault in October.

“It’s really enabled me to get to know the collection in a whole new way, and appreciate it in a whole new way,” said Wolfe. “I think history is the most powerful connection, we really get to examine who and what has come before us and how that shapes us today.”

Due to the vault’s size, Wolfe said, the organization will now have the capability to grow the collection by 128%, and the hope is, in part, to use that space to incorporate a wider range of historical perspectives into the archives.

“Everyone loves ship captains, and logs, and all of those things, but in reality, those things are always what get precedence,” said Wolfe. “I think what we’re more interested in is some of the blind spots in our collection, I mean why is a ship captain’s log more important than maybe his wife’s diary which we’ve never transcribed, or we’ve never opened.”

According to Smith, the organization has letters and log books that date back to before 1789, the year Freeport was founded.

A collection of books inside Freeport Historical Society’s new vault. C. Thacher Carter / The Times Record

Freeport Historical Society was started in 1969. Smith said the organization is hoping to hold a grand reopening of the building early next year, with exhibits to follow.

The renovations were funded from a $1 million donation from George and Joyce Denney in 2016, with the goal of making Freeport Historical Society “the anchor of Main Street.”

The organization launched a fundraising campaign in 2020 to source the remaining $500,000 for the project, and to date, they have raised $340,000.


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