If you have done research at Hagley’s Manuscripts and Archives Department within the last 40 years, or so, you probably met Chris Baer. If that research included locomotive, ship, and or steel company records, you not only met Chris, your project was enhanced by his expertise.
As an architect in New York City in the 1970’s, Chris felt the effects of a slowing economy. Realizing it was time for a career change, Baer came to Hagley and the rest is, well, history.
Image: Christopher T. Baer in 1977 (Hagley Foundation Archives)
Chris’ keen understanding of the industrial revolution, and its impact on the mid-Atlantic region, is mirrored in Hagley’s collections. The Reading and Pennsylvania railroads, Westmoreland Coal Company, Phoenix Steel and Bridge Company, and the New Jersey Southern Railroad Company are a few of the industrial giants whose records were meticulously described by Baer.
When Chris first arrived at Hagley in the summer of 1976, all administration offices of Hagley were in the Library Building, as well as all library collections – published, photographic, and manuscript collections. During his tenure, staff grew and located to refurbished buildings throughout the property. Research collections expanded at such a rate, it was necessary for the formation of a committee to examine the growth-rate of existing records and project storage space available. That work eventually resulting in the rehabilitation of the Soda House and the Hall of Records. When Chris retired in December of 2018, administrative offices remain in the Library Building with some library staff, including the Published Collections, and Audiovisual and Digitization departments. The Manuscripts and Archives Department, and most archival collections, are now located in the Soda House with Museum staff occupying offices in the Visitor’s Center and the Hall of Records.
Much has changed during the last 40, or so, years – but one thing hasn’t - you can still find Chris Baer in his new role as Curator Emeritus in the Library Building where his research office is located.
Marsha Mills is the Foundation Archivist at Hagley Museum and Library.