First Community Outreach Program Coming in February  

Posted by Matt Carl, Manager/Curator

February will be an interesting month at BCHS. This time of year is generally quiet for us - a time to plan for the coming year and to catch up on projects that are not yet completed.

One of my goals for this year is to go "on the road" with some of our programming. This means that one or two educational events during the year would be held at other places within Bradford County rather than just at our facility in Towanda. The purpose is to reinforce the fact that we cover all of Bradford County. Aside from that, there are just a lot of great historic places to go in our county.
February marks the first of these events and you will learn more about what is going on starting next week. What I hope you will enjoy though is the opportunity to have a front row seat to what is happening even if you can't physically attend the program.
Over the next month, leading up to the event, you will find video clips and commentary right here on my blog pertaining to the upcoming program topic. If you do live close enough to be able to attend, I hope that this will spark your interest and encourage you to come and participate.
Yes, I am being vague about just what this topic is going to be. Come back Monday for all the information. In the meantime, tell someone about this blog and get them to subscribe. It's quick and easy, and there is no better way to stay up to date with all of the features coming this month. We've had over 700 hits and 80 subscribers added since the blog began just over a month ago.
See you Monday!

The Importance of BCHS in an Electronic Age  

Posted by Matt Carl, Manager/Curator

Why should I become a member of the Bradford County Historical Society, or any historical society for that matter, if I can use online resources for my research?

It's interesting how this topic has become a part of our daily lives here in the 21st century. The answer to a question like that would have been obvious 10 or 15 years ago. In fact, the question wouldn't have been asked. Online resources were not as plentiful as they are today.
Sometime when boredom strikes, visit The Way Back Machine website and type in "ancestry.com" to see what that now popular site looked like in 1996. The site we all know today wasn't much of anything back then.
Today it's different though and it's not just Ancestry.com that made it that way. Look at Google Book Search for example. Google has digitized thousands of rare books and made them available online free of charge or through limited access. I have used this resource a lot myself recently and have found references to Bradford County in hundreds of books.
Google has a special arrangement with the nations foremost libraries to make this material available. These libraries, however, face the same issues that the Bradford County Historical Society research library faces. There has to be a place where historical records are preserved for future generations. If all material is made available for free online, there is little reason to use research libraries. If no one used research libraries, then the revenue that is used to maintain a safe storage environment for these original records would not exist.
We are committed to improving the options available for records access in our research library, whether for walk-in visitors or researchers across the nation. We are currently discussing the possibilities here at BCHS with a goal of starting to implement some of these improvements before the end of the year. Send an email to bchscurator@epix.net and tell me what improvements you would like to see for researchers.

Your Piece of the Puzzle  

Posted by Matt Carl, Manager/Curator

This past Christmas I wanted to give something a little out of the ordinary for a gift. A few 1,000 piece puzzles seemed to fit the bill, especially because they are good ways to relax during the holidays.

While participating in the assembly of one of these puzzles, it occured to me how similar they were to the task entrusted to the Bradford County Historical Society.

When the society was founded in 1870, its members had the equivalent of a puzzle box with a few pieces inside. Interpreting the history of a community is like a puzzle box that is blank on the outside. What makes the puzzle a little less challenging is the fact that you can look at the completed picture on the box to use as a guide. When preserving local history, it is not often that you know the final picture from the beginning. Many times you have to collect the puzzle pieces, and at random you will discover that a few of the pieces fit together. You may even discover that the overall puzzle is much larger than you thought.

Two goals of the historical society are preservation and education. This is where the puzzle pieces become important.

BCHS has the job of searching out the puzzle pieces that are scattered everywhere from Main Street in Towanda to the far reaches of the United States. The mystery is that we are not always sure what the pieces look like.

The question is, who has these pieces to Bradford County's historical puzzle? We have often found that most everyone has at least one puzzle piece to offer. Others have more. They are all an important part of creating the final picture. The historical society's mission is to gather these pieces and then fit them together when possible. This is preservation.

As the picture grows, it is then our duty to interpret what we see. This is education.

So what is your piece of the puzzle? Have you added it (whether information, photos, or artifacts) to the society collection? Remember - to see the overall picture of our history, we need your piece of the puzzle.

A version of this article was written by Matt Carl in 2006 and has been adapted for use here.

What Will Happen to Your Family History?  

Posted by Matt Carl, Manager/Curator

Do you collect family history? Have you compiled your family genealogy? Do you have photographs passed down to you by your parents? Do you collect items that would help tell the story of Bradford County?

Consider what will happen to your collection when you are gone. Is there a family member who will properly care for these important items?
All too often these days it seems that local family and community collections appear in estate auctions where they are separated and sold to the highest bidder. Many times items are purchased by dealers and then individually sold in other markets at a higher price.
What if your precious family history, photographs and keepsakes were dispersed to the highest bidder, or even worse, sent to the landfill? If you don’t have a will or haven’t designated in your will where these items will go, the scenario described above could happen to you.
The Bradford County Historical Society actively collects archival material and objects that directly relate to Bradford County history. This includes items made or used within the county, material written about Bradford County residents or topics, and photographs of people and places within the county.
If you are searching for a place to donate these types of items, consider the Bradford County Historical Society. Not only have we been caring for local historical items for well over 100 years; we also offer a safe and secure repository that will protect your family history for years to come. Our facility is even used by Bradford County to store and make available original county records.
Consult your attorney about how to include the Bradford County Historical Society in your will. You may wish to preserve the legacy of your family by leaving individual objects, collections, entire estates, or financial funding to the society.
If we will all make sure our history is protected for the future, then the story of our people will be preserved for generations to come.
This article was published in the November 2008 quarterly newsletter of the Bradford County Historical Society. You can receive this newsletter as well as our quarterly magazine, The Settler, by becoming a member of the society. Visit the Membership page on our website for more information!

Volunteers Needed  

Posted by Matt Carl, Manager/Curator

As promised, here is another goal for 2009. Over the coming year we will be working to increase our volunteer base. Although we currently have several library/research volunteers, we will be looking for people who are interested in doing volunteer work in other parts of our facility. Some potential ongoing volunteer opportunities include:

  • assisting with school tours
  • stuffing envelopes

More opportunities are currently being developed but if you are interested in spending some volunteer hours at the Bradford County Historical Society, email me at bchscurator@epix.net. We would be glad to have your help!

Website Update  

Posted by Matt Carl, Manager/Curator

Another of my goals for 2009 is a complete overhaul of our website, www.bradfordhistory.com. When this goal is met, our website will offer a new look, and a greater variety of information covering all aspects of our organization. We are currently considering the possibilities for the new website and invite you to let us know what type of information you would like to see. Email me at bchscurator@epix.net with your ideas!

Planning A New Year  

Posted by Matt Carl, Manager/Curator

Today was the first meeting of the board of trustees for 2009. Each year, the January meeting is set aside to plan and organize what our goals are for the coming year. The goals that I set for 2009 were placed under three overall categories: funding, outreach/education, and preservation. This method allowed us to see how each of the smaller goals each come together to fulfill the greater purposes of our historical society.

One of the goals that I believe will be a real benefit to BCHS is an increase in outreach to other parts of Bradford County. The Bradford County Historical Society has been based in Towanda since 1870 and as a result, some may assume that our organization focuses on the community where we are based. It is true that BCHS houses a lot of Towanda related history, but we offer an even greater amount of history from all points in the county. Also, since we are the repository for official county records, there is literally no place in the county that is untouched.
This goal of outreach will include special programming held in various communities throughout the county. More details will follow in the coming months, but look for us to come to a community near you!
As my list of goals fill three pages, I will share some more of them in future posts.