Friday, October 30, 2009

REPORTER BLOG: Athens County Historical Society & Museum

Max Resnik

When Jessica Neidhard, my Athens MidDayreporting partner, told me that we were going to cover the Athens County Historical Society and Museum, I was pretty excited. I thought, there should definitely be some nice historical pieces in a town that dates back to the founding of the Northwest Terriroty. Then I asked where it was. She told me that it was on Court Street right by the old Blue Gator restaurant.

Surprised, I of course asked, “There’s a museum there?” And she said that there in fact was. Slammed between two bars, I began to wonder how many other people had just walked by the museum’s front without taking the time to merely peek inside.

I thought that I had seen it before. Of course, I could not say for sure because my mind still could not get over the fact that I was stunned to find out the Athens County Historical Society and Museum was located on Court Street.

When we headed out I really didn’t know what to expect. I wondered how many artifacts it had and if there were exhibits. I wondered how big it was and if it gets a lot of visitors. I wondered who worked there and how it was run. I pondered all of these things, and I wondered, how many other people would ask these questions?

Say Hello to the Curator
Heather Reed knows all about the Athens Historical Society and Museum. That is because she’s the museum’s curator. The young woman, smart and full of spunk, really gave Jessica and I her time as we shared a dialogue about the museum, its history, and its place in Athens.

Heather Reed, Museum Curator

Heather wanted to make one message very clear to both Jessica and me. It was also a message that she wanted us to share with the Athens community:

This is your museum so come take advantage of it.
The museum is more than just a few artifacts and a couple of exhibits. The families who make up Athens county, and the ones that have made up Athens county for decades, can research their family’s ancestry at the museum. Even more, they can come look for artifacts that belonged to their family from a century ago.

I found this to be incredible. Heather displayed a deep passion for both her work and the community. It can be something to take note of when considering how the economic state of affairs has hurt our region.

Volunteerism at the Athens Historical Society and Museum
When we met Thomas Burcher I was very excited. Positioned as obituary clerk, Thomas is responsible for updating what is quite literally the book of the dead. His job is to read the local papers and to cut out the obituaries. He then organizes them by name and the name’s origins. So some names are in the German file while others might lie in the English file.

Thomas taught us some very interesting things. He noted that most of the surnames found in Athens are German, English and Dutch. There are some Slavic names and Grecian names as well, but the majority hail from Germany and Britain.

Educational Programming
The area that I chose to focus on for my MidDay web article was the opportunities at the museum for local schools. Fit with a handful of programs, which can vary by season or year, students from the area have the opportunity to get a hands-on experience handling thousands of artifacts.

The museum's programs are running now. Nearly 1,000 students make it to the museum each year.

It is rare to find such a museum that will allow its patrons this opportunity. Most museums are guarded like banks, using surveillance cameras, heat sensors and alarms when someone gets too close to an exhibit or piece.

Go to the Museum!
If you are at all interested in the museum, then you should go check it out. There is nothing to hold you back from a great hands-on experience in a place that might just be a short walk from home.

External Links
To get more information on volunteering at the museum and to see what the museum has to offer, check out these links:
About the Museum
History of the museum
Board and Staff
Become a Volunteer

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