THERE IS hidden treasure in Columbia and Barbara Kellner knows where to find it. The Wilde Lake resident is manager of the Columbia Archives, at the Columbia Association's administrative offices on Wincopin Circle.
The Columbia Archives is the depository for much of our fair city's history. The documents, photos and memorabilia stored there are treasures, divulging little-known information about Columbia - from its initial planning stages to today. Although Columbia is not very old, the archives offer an opportunity to chronicle and study history as it is being made.
"A lot of stories are housed here," Kellner said as she placed a scrapbook on a teak table that was once the desk of James W. Rouse. Instead of being displayed behind a velvet rope as some might think fitting for the desk of Columbia's founder, it serves as a work space for Kellner and archivist Robin Emrich.
"I think Jim Rouse would like that it's still being used," Kellner said.
Kellner and Emrich flipped through the scrapbook's pages, stopping to identify a photograph of Marjorie Merriweather Post, as she presented former Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey with a silver-plated "permanent card of admission" to Merriweather Post Concert Pavilion at the facility's dedication concert in July 1967. Rouse's permanent card of admission can be found in its original box on the shelves at the archives.
Pasted to the scrapbook's pages is a quote attributed to Rouse that reads, "I don't understand women as well as I understand cities. Women are much more complicated."
One of the original "pioneers" of Columbia, Dick Blumenthal, a resident of Wilde Lake for 32 years, has volunteered at the archives once a week for six years. He said he has seen a lot of changes in Columbia.
"I'm interested in the history of Columbia," he said. "I like to look at the old documents. It brings back memories."
Blumenthal said he thinks that the most interesting artifacts he has uncovered at the archives are "the boyhood writings of James Rouse - report cards, things like that. I learned a lot about him and learned to appreciate him even more."
Christina Shepelavey, another resident of Wilde Lake, volunteers at the archives twice a week. She enjoys reading the minutes from the village board meetings and learning about problems and the atmosphere in Columbia's early days.
"I love seeing how involved everyone was back then and how much activity there was at the village centers," she said.
As a tie-in to Howard County's Sesquicentennial Celebration, Kellner has prepared a series of 10 fliers highlighting people and places of note in Columbia, titled "Finding History Where You Live."
The fliers are being distributed during activities at the Summer Lakefront Festival in Town Center. They reveal interesting tidbits of our area's history, such as the Columbia location of the Athol stone, which marks the original land grant of the Rev. James MacGill and pre-dates the founding of the United States; and what Columbia building was designed by Frank Gehry, named the world's most famous architect by Time magazine (June 26, 2000).
The archives are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, although Kellner said the staff encourages appointments.
The sixth Columbia International Day will be held from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday at Columbia's Town Center Lakefront.
Maggie Brown, Columbia Association vice president and director of community services, said, "International Day came about because of our relationship with our sister cities, Tres Cantos in Spain and Cergy-Pontoise in France, and gives us a chance to showcase the diversity of Columbia."
Saturday's events will include music from performers such as the Trinidad and Tobago Steel Drum Orchestra, Charm City Klezmer Band, Gumbo Junkyard, Mystic Warriors and Mama Jama.
Some of the activities planned for children are arts and crafts, games, a Moon Bounce, a climbing wall and a carousel.
Students from Howard County, France and Spain and their chaperones will participate in a ceremony at 5:30 p.m. A variety of food from several cultures, including Vietnamese and Greek, will be available for purchase.
The Hickory Ridge Community Association will hold a Teen Pool Party for teens entering grades nine to 12 from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday at the Hawthorn Pool. Disc jockey Greg Buchman will provide the music.
Tickets will not be sold at the door but are available in advance at Hawthorn Center for $3.