In my time at The Frederick News-Post, I have been to the Community Room at the C. Burr Artz Public Library several times for stories and have often spoken on the phone with Mary Mannix, manager of the library’s Maryland Room.
As I had never physically been to the Maryland Room, I decided to spend some time there and pick Mary’s brain about what she does and how the room benefits the community.
As many know, the Maryland Room has documents about the people, places and times throughout the state’s history.
It has published materials from literary journals, history books, history reports from students from elementary school to college, Maryland Geological Survey books, books about the birds and the snakes of Maryland, books about Maryland’s economy, biographies of people who lived here, high school yearbooks, books about medical terms in the 19th century, books about how to do genealogy and 100 more things.
“We also have genealogy from Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia and Washington, D.C.,” she said. “We’re not likely to get the definitive history of the architecture of Harpers Ferry, though I think we do have that.”
There’s a large Civil War book collection as well.
“I used to joke that the only thing I cared about in the Civil War was that Abraham Lincoln was killed by a Marylander,” she said.
The most bizarre document in the room? The tarring and feathering case in Myersville, in her opinion.
“Our crime folders are very popular,” she added.
She told the story of a young woman from Hagerstown who came to Myersville and “spent a little too much time talking to a married man, and so they tried to tar and feather her.”
She knew exactly where the folder was; she later pulled it for me while touring the room.
It’s under tarring and feathering.
While most of her patrons are genealogists, others visit to research other interesting aspects of Maryland.
She described the room as a destination, adding that people come from all over the country to visit it. And while they may not spend money in the room, they spend money in town.
I then asked her about the most bizarre request she’s received from a patron.
“Someone came in once and wanted his own obituary,” she said. “He was with this new girlfriend. And of course I didn’t bat an eye, because I’ve seen it all.”
He said it was all a part of the Witness Protection Program.
“There wasn’t an obituary for him,” she said. “I think it was just some guy in his 20s trying to show off for the girl.”
Mary has been part of the room for 21 years, and she has no plans on leaving.
“I figured I’m in it now to the end,” she said. “The end of me, not the end of the Maryland Room.”
She values preserving these documents because they have to be here for our grandchildren.
“History has always been important to me, and I think it’s important to people,” she said. “It’s important to me for these things to have a home and to know that they’ll be here in the future.”