Tuesday, April 28, 2009

2009 Friday Night at the Museum Programming to Begin May 15 - Ellis Island to be Discussed

The Bradford County Historical Society will host a free program about Ellis Island scheduled for May 15, 2009 at 6 p.m. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Although the event is free, participants are asked to register by calling 570-265-2240 or by email at bchsociety@epix.net.

The program will be presented by Wilton S. Tifft, an award-winning photojournalist and Bradford County resident.

All immigrants who came to Bradford County between 1892 and 1924 passed through Ellis Island, which functioned as an immigrant processing center. Today it is the site of the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. Come and experience a program about Mr. Tifft's book of Ellis Island photography and the years that he spent documenting this historic landmark.

Samples of Mr. Tifft's photography, including Ellis Island as well as locations around the world, can be viewed at his website, www.tifft.com.

This program is part of the 2009 "Friday Night at the Museum" programming series that will be held the third Friday of each month from May until October. Each event is held in the Great Room at the Bradford County Historical Society, located at 109 Pine Street, Towanda, PA. Free
refreshments are provided at each program.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Website, Programming, Tours, and a Job Opening

As I look at my calendar, I notice that it seems to be one solid mass of writing. That can only mean one thing - Summer is on the way.

As I wrote previously, progress continues to be made with our new website. The design phase is complete and at this time content is being added to the site. The new site will have some surprises, but one that I will let you know about is the collection of rotating photographs on the front page. Everytime you visit, the photo will change to a different historic Bradford County scene. We hope to go live with the new website by the end of Spring and then it will have additional material added to it on a regular basis.

Our schedule for this year's "Friday Night at the Museum" programming is complete. Mark your calendar to visit BCHS on the third Friday evening of each month at 6 p.m. (museum open from 5:30 to 6:00). On May 15th, award-winning photojournalist and Bradford County resident, Wilton S. Tifft will talk about Ellis Island and the time he spent photographing this historic landmark. All immigrants who came to Bradford County between 1892 and 1924 passed through Ellis Island, which functioned as an immigrant processing center. Refreshments will be provided and registration for the free program is requested to help us plan for you. Visit http://www.tifft.com/ellis.html to see Mr. Tifft's Ellis Island photography. If you would like a schedule of 2009 programs, stop by the the museum lobby or the research library and pick one up. If you would like one emailed to you, simply send your request to bchscurator@epix.net.

School and scout tours are well underway with over 300 students scheduled to visit the museum over the next month and a half.

Finally, speaking of tours, we are currently accepting applications for a part-time summer tour guide position here at BCHS. High school seniors and college students are encouraged to apply. Stop by the Bradford County Historical Society research library at 109 Pine Street, Towanda and pick up an application or request one by emailing bchscurator@epix.net.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Kids Touch History at BCHS

The season of group tours is now upon us - school tours and scout tours specifically. Five have been scheduled so far this year. Usually, if the group is small, I will conduct the tour myself.

This week, we had an evening tour for a Cub Scout group and their parents. I often try to highlight specific topics throughout the tour that I think will capture the interest of the age group I'm talking to. They are only going to remember specific items anyway, so it's important to focus on making those specific items memorable. Once kids are interested in local history, they will learn the deeper facts in time. There is no need to throw an entire Craft's history at a ten year old and expect them to be interested.

I speak from experience because it was at age 10 that I became interested in local history. The "moment" in which it happened though was not sitting in a classroom listening to a lecture. Certainly there is a time for that style of teaching, but with local history, a different method is required. At age 10, I saw the "ruins" of Laquin for the first time and it was the visual aspect of the moment that created the interest. Immediately following that was the chance to touch something that someone had created so many years ago.

A hands-on approach is always good and I have been working more of this in at different points thoughout the museum tour. Just any old item won't do the job though. It has to be something memorable. One of these hands-on objects is used in the Military History exhibit room. After announcing that, if everyone listens closely, they will have the chance to hold the item I am showing them, an immediate silence falls over the room. We then talk about some of the important items on display and some Bradford County soldiers. Then I pull a Civil War era sword out of its scabbard and announce that this sword was actually used by a Bradford County soldier.

As eyes begin to widen, the rules for handling the object are reviewed, and with the assistance of myself and their chaparones, each child has the opportunity to hold the sword. One young child in this weeks tour was in fact shorter than the sword was long. The parents on the tour reminded them that not everyone has the opportunity to hold a Civil War sword. No doubt, they will remember this for some time.

When you are a member of the Bradford County Historical Society, you are directly supporting these opportunities for children all across the county. Even if you don't live in Bradford County, you are making it possible for these children to learn about the history of your ancestors. A hands-on approach to local history cannot be gained online. If you are not a member of BCHS, visit http://www.bradfordhistory.com/Membership/ and find out how to become one today. You will not only receive benefits for yourself, but you will benefit Bradford County children for years to come.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Research Library Hours Resume Today

Well, everything is back to normal at the BCHS Research Library. Regular hours resume today and continue throughout 2009. Although it may have been a temporary inconvenience, closing down for a few months literally cut the gas bill in half. Thankfully, warmer weather is here!

Last week we had a good meeting of all Bradford County museums here at our facility in Towanda. This group is comprised of representatives from the 10 Bradford County museums, as well as representatives from local tourist and heritage agencies. Our county is really quite unique in that there is so much interest in preserving our history that 10 different organizations with 10 different boards have sprung to life over the years. It might seem like a lot of duplication but our county is the third largest in the state, making it quite challenging for one group to cover every area. The Bradford County Historical Society is designated as the "official" county historical society and we reach out to all areas of the county. All other local museums in the county focus on major towns, areas, or topics. Anyway, this group of people are currently discussing ways in which we can partner to further enhance our efforts. The main project happening right now is a brochure that will include contact information, a description and photos of each museum in the county.

Our new website is progressing and we are currently in the design phase. The initial design ideas have been discussed with the web developer and a "first draft" of the main page is done. It is very different from our current site, and I know it will be much more appealing for all ages.