Iíve always had a fascination with history. It was always one of my favorite subjects in school. I loved learning about ancient cultures and far-off lands. I was entranced by tales of the explorers who traveled the globe ďdiscoveringĒ land masses and indigenous tribes, and absorbed by how modern nations, including our own, were formed.
Iíve always enjoyed strolling through museums ogling artifacts from the past and feeling that sense of being a part of the rich history of humanity on this planet. Some things Iíve learned have made me proud to be a part of that history, others have made me weep. But I would rather understand our past than ignore, or remain ignorant, of it.
It was only recently I realized that much of what Iíve learned is on a macro level, and Iím somewhat ashamed to admit how little I actually know about our very own Chenango County.
One of the things Iím thankful for most about my job is the chance to learn about that history. Iíve had the opportunity to sit down with several of our local historians, and gotten personal tours of more than one of our local historical society museums. Iím always amazed by the stories they share.
It was almost a year ago now that Charlotte Stafford, Oxfordís historian, welcomed me into her home for the first time. What was supposed to be a brief interview for a feature I was writing about Charlotte, turned into hours of sitting in her living room listening to stories of Oxfordís past. I was startled to find out just how little I knew about the community I basically grew up in. I mean, how did I miss the fact that Barnum Brown, the man who discovered the first T-Rex skeleton, is buried in Oxford?
In my discussions with Charlotte, I realized that it was the minutiae, the individual stories, that fascinated me the most. She shared with me diaries and letters of people long dead, who lived on in those words. I longed to read each one, hoping to catch a glimpse of who that writer really was.
I learned even more about Oxford when I visited the Historical Society Museum on Depot Street. Fred Lanfear was kind enough to give me a tour and then together we searched through boxes of books which were part of the museumís collection. I wish I had had more time on that occasion to pour over all of the bits and pieces housed there.
Just a few weeks ago, I was treated to a tour of Greeneís Historical Museum, located on the top floor of the Moore Memorial Library. Iím not sure that I can adequately describe the feelings inspired in me by my first glimpse of the space, which was once home to musical and theatrical productions. It is truly a magical space.
Sharon Davis and I were supposed to be discussing a local art show being hosted by the museum, but Iím afraid we got a little distracted. All right, I was the one that got distracted. I couldnít help it. I feel so privileged to have been shown Greeneís hidden treasures. But of course it wasnít just the items themselves that were so fascinating, it was the stories that went with them. Donít worry, Iíll definitely be going back. And when I do, Iíll share.
Each day, my education about Chenango County continues. Yesterday I had a rare treat: I spent the day with a group of historians and historical society members from all over the county. Together we took a tour of Coventry and Coventryville, visiting points of historical interest.
Perhaps the most amazing part of the experience for me, wasnít just the locations we visited (although they were incredibly interesting as well), but what happens when you get all of those experts in one place. They all start sharing. Weíd start talking about a topic, and they would all start to add bits and pieces. They were all so eager and willing to share. I did my best sponge impression, trying to soak it all in. And I canít tell you how privileged I felt to be a part of it.
The experience has inspired me, I think, to learn more about our area and its rich history. We are fortunate to have that history, and even more fortunate to have passionate people (like Charlotte, Fred, Sharon and all those I met yesterday) to help us remember the past.