Nelson Dionne Fund Press Release

History Smiths


SALEM, March 31, 2014: In 2013, Salem collector and native Nelson Dionne donated his massive archive to Salem State University’s Archives and Special Collections. A retired Salem police officer, Dionne has been collecting Salem material for over 50 years since he was in high school. A self-described “squirrel,” Dionne’s collecting efforts earned him the prestigious 2013 Prize for Collecting Paper from Historic New England, one of the nation’s leading preservation organizations.

To support Dionne’s ongoing collecting activities, The Nelson Dionne Salem History Fund has been established at Salem State University. “I’m not done!” Dionne says. And he’s not. Money raised for the fund will sustain Dionne’s efforts to return Salem material to Salem.

Salem State University President Patricia Meservy’s Chief of Staff, Beth Bower, released this statement about the Dionne Fund: “Salem State University is pleased and proud to be the repository of the Nelson Dionne Salem History Collection. Mr. Dionne’s years of research, collecting, and investing have resulted in a unique and historically valuable assemblage that documents the rich and varied history of Salem and the North Shore. We are thankful to him for his foresight and perseverance and for selecting Salem State University as its new home where the public can have access to the collection in the new Berry Library Archives.”  (cont.)

In her description of Dionne’s collection, Susan Edwards, Librarian for the Salem State University Archives and Special Collections, wrote: The Nelson Dionne Salem History Collection is a rich source of material on the history of Salem. The collection focuses on the 19th-century to the present, with an emphasis on ethnic groups, business, travel and tourism, transportation, religious and social organizations, and the built environment. Included in the collection are books, photographs and postcards, stereographs, organization and business records, trade publications, and a wide variety of ephemera.  The collection is open to the public and is currently being used for scholarly projects, student and faculty work, and digital exhibits. The Archives and Special Collections is planning to scan much of the material and make it available on the Internet for all to use.”

Along with the historical material Dionne finds on eBay or at antique stores, flea markets, and yard sales, he is eager to collect today’s information for future generations from local businesses, organizations, and individuals. As he puts it, “When I see a bit of today’s paper, I ask myself, if this were 50 years old would I want it?”

Dionne points out: “There are hundreds of collectors who see their lifelong gatherings thrown into dumpsters or sold on eBay because no one had the sense to ask them to donate their material. What’s more, we will pay a large price in the future if local history groups ignore the need to collect their community’s history today—as it’s made.”

Already, Dionne’s collection has informed numerous authors, reporters, and organizations. His own books, drawn from his collection, include Victorian Salem in Stereo (Hardy House, 2011), Salem, Then & Now with Jerome Curley (Arcadia Publishing, 2012), Legendary Locals of Salem with Dorothy Malcolm and Jerome Curley (Arcadia Publishing, 2013), and his new book Salem Through Time with Jerome Curley (Fonthill Media), which will be available in April 2014.

“It’s time for the Salem community to get behind Nelson—businesses and individuals,” says Harrison Bennett, Salem author and a volunteer for the Dionne Fund. “He’s been collecting on his own for 50 years, but now he needs our support. It’s time.”

To contribute to The Nelson Dionne Salem History Fund: (Tax deductible) checks may be made payable to the Salem State University Foundation and mailed to Salem State University, Archives and Special Collections, 352 Lafayette Street, Salem, MA 01970. Reference “Dionne Fund” on the check.

If you have Salem material to donate to the Salem State University Archives and Special Collections:

Contact Susan Edwards, 978-542-6781, [email protected]

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