With him, past was present — 1970 was 1870.
“There are echoes from those days all around us,” he said.
He treasures what has been cast aside and forgotten. Only Dionne can pick up a booklet titled “Sewerage of Salem” and hold it in his hands like the Gutenberg Bible.
In recent years, Dionne has published books on Salem history. He has a new one coming out this year and is making plans for one on the Salem Fire Department for next year, the 100th anniversary of the great fire.
Dionne’s collection, which some consider priceless, is certainly irreplaceable. Most of it will be turned over to Salem State University this summer for its new library and to Gordon College for the Salem Museum in Old Town Hall.
“This collection is a treasure of Salem history that will be used for many years by members of the community, students and faculty,” Susan Edwards, Salem State archivist and special collections librarian, said in a statement.
Historic New England will present the prize to Dionne on May 1 at a reception at the Governor John Langdon House in Portsmouth, N.H.
Tom Dalton can be reached at email@example.com.