Thursday, December 30, 2021

New Year, New Horizons: Barbara Kellner Bids Columbia Farewell


Visitors to the Columbia lakefront recently might have caught a glimpse of this historic moment. 

(Photo used with permission*)

This photo shows Barbara Kellner, retired director of the Columbia Archives, paying a farewell visit to the statue of Jim Rouse at Lake Kittamaqundi. Kellner added this caption when she posted the photo on Facebook:

Thank you Jim.  You changed my life.  I will be forever grateful for the circumstances that brought me to Columbia and to my immersion in its history. 

The new year will find Ms. Kellner making her home in Williamsburg, Virginia, to be closer to her grandchildren. She has new adventures on the horizon. Since her retirement from the Archives, Kellner has enjoyed travel and documented much of it in beautiful photographs, most especially of nature. But I suspect that visits with her family have been the best retirement pastime of all.

I have a confession to make. While most people think of Rouse as the face of Columbia, for me it has always been Barbara Kellner. I came here long after Columbia’s formative years. Without her leadership in preserving our history, and her enthusiasm and dedication in sharing it, I never would have felt the connection I have about how this place came to be.

When Kellner retired from the Archives, I wrote about her as Columbia’s Best Ambassador. Janene Holzberg of the Baltimore Sun wrote Over quarter century, Columbia archivist made her own mark in history. From the latter, this quote from the late Robert Tennenbaum caught my eye:

It’s not a stodgy, academic facility, but a place that combines the old and the new and lets people know they’re living in a special place. Barb made a major difference by creating it virtually out of nothing.

Rather like the creation of Columbia itself. 

I’d like to continue to honor the idea of combining the old and the new as Columbia moves forward, maintaining Kellner's belief that we are living in a special place.

I wish her much happiness in her new home, and offer sincere gratitude for all she has given the old one. 

*I hope someone has the foresight to submit this photo to the Columbia Archives. 

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