A Rare Look Into The Archives: Mae Smith

By John Antonowicz


In celebration of the Chenango County Historical Societyís 50th anniversary of being open to the public, the first five articles have been a history of the museum. However, all of those fifty years would not have been possible without the endless efforts of dedicated volunteers. Without the late Minnie Mae Smith, the historical society would not exist on the scale it does today.

Mae, a native to Norwich, was born on September 28, 1923, and became a graduate of the Norwich High School class of 1942. After graduating, Mae advanced her education by taking history classes at Morrisville State College and also by attending numerous seminars on local history at the New York State Historical Association in Cooperstown. She also took part in numerous workshops by the Regional Conference for Historical Agencies. Mae later worked for the Chenango & Unadilla Telephone Corporation. After leaving this company, she gained interest in the newly formed museum.

Mae began at the museum when she wanted to research her grandfatherís efforts in the Civil War on the 100th anniversary of the Civil War. Mae was then asked to present an exhibit on the information she had compiled. With Maeís keen interest in history, Mae was well-known by local historians, including Albert and Goldie Phillips.

In 1962, Albert Phillips became president of the historical society. As president, Albert appointed Mae as curator of the museumís collections of historical relics. Mae accepted the position and recorded the artifacts as they were donated to the society. Each object was recorded in notebooks with a detailed description of the individual object and was then given a number. After the object received a number, a donor card was made for the object so visitors can view who donated the objects to the collection. On October 15, 1966, Mae was appointed to the position of Chenango County Historian to replace Louise Shinners. Although Mae worked for the County in the Historianís office, located in the museumís basement, Mae continued to act as curator of the historical society to oversee all donations and exhibits.

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