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New archivist will make local history easier to find

By KAREN THIEL

For the Washington Daily News

 

If you let him, Stephen Farrell will fill you in on almost anything related to North Carolina history — then tell you about his favorite waterfront locations. The lifelong North Carolinian will now be able to do some of that during working hours. Farrell has signed on with George H. and Laura E. Brown Library as the new reference specialist and archivist of the library’s extensive collection of historical documents.

“We are a happy, dedicated, passionate team at the Brown Library, and Stephen will fit right in. He had the experience and responses we were looking for during the interview, but it was his passion for history that really struck us all,” said library Director Sandra Silvey.

Silvey said the history of Washington is “absolutely fascinating, and we just needed someone who can express that to our community in a way that helps them understanding the rich history of where we live. We believe Stephen will be able to do that.”

Farrell’s interest in genealogy, local history and military history began as a child and, with the help of parents who were both teachers, interest grew into a passion that has turned into a profession.

“I want to preserve all history and make it accessible for everyone to share and learn from,” Farrell said.

A graduate of University of North Carolina-Pembroke, as well as the distinction of having completed an exclusive internship at the Tufts Archives and Given Memorial Library in Pinehurst, Farrell said several professors spurred him on to pursue history.

“I credit them and my parents with where I am now,” he said of Dr. Jaime Martinez and Dr. Mark Thompson at UNC-P. He said the “very personal focus on students as individuals, as well as their skills as great educators” added immeasurable value to his studies.

“Stephen was very motivated to learn and to find ways to make a career out of history, which isn’t the easiest thing to do,” said Martinez, chair of the UNC-P history department.

Audrey Moriarty, executive director of the Tufts Archives and his mentor during the internship there, said Farrell is well-suited for the job.

“He loves history, and that is a very important part of what he will be doing,” she said.

Moriarty said Farrell’s biggest strength is that he is “instantly likable and very gregarious. He engages people, and that’s really important.”

Farrell credits his parents with making sure his education was not limited to the classroom.

“There are some skills you just can’t learn from a library. I got at least as much from family traditions and their outlook on service to others, the community and the outdoors, things that you’re not necessarily going to get from book learning, including the canoe trips that helped me fall in love with the water,” Farrell said, adding that his love of nature makes Washington an even more attractive place to live and work.

“I’m so excited to be able to call this beautiful area home,” he said.

As for Farrell’s new role, he said community outreach, public access to the library’s historical collection and growing its historic archive are high on his list of priorities.

“The Brown Library is a jewel of eastern North Carolina, not only for our history, our artifacts, and our collection of related documents, but because of our service to the community,” he said.

Silvey said she hopes the community will get to know him and recognize his passion for Washington’s history.

“We are always trying to find pieces of the puzzle of Washington’s history that we don’t yet have, trying to find the people who will trust those pieces of Washington’s history, their documents, to us to preserve and share with the rest of the town. Stephen will take good care of them, if they will share what they have,” Silvey said.

Brown Library is located at 122 Van Norden St. in Washington. Due to COVID-19, the library is currently offering limited services. Visit the library’s Facebook page or website or call 252-946-4300 for more information.

New archivist will make local history easier to find