Volunteers keep Museum going

By John Antonowicz


As the year 2012 is wrapping up, so is the 50th anniversary of the Chenango County Historical Society opening their doors to the public. This is the final article before the book, A Rare Look Into the Archives, is published on this information and available on December 9th in the Museum’s Gift Shop at the Holiday Open House from noon to 4pm. The last four articles were each dedicated to selected volunteers that helped significantly expand the Society. It seems only appropriate to focus on current volunteers for the last article that is being published in The Evening Sun, so this final article contains interviews with those individuals who do different tasks around the Museum.

Gilbert “Gib” Harrington, Norwich

Gib started volunteering at the Museum in 2007. After Gib and his brother closed the family business of Harrington’s Greenhouses and Florist, Gib was asked if he would join the museum’s Board of Directors. When Gib first saw the Museum grounds he said “Let’s make what we’ve got look decent,” and that is what Gib has done over the past five years. When Gib joined the museum, he decided to “tackle” the overgrown grounds. He first started with the front flag pole. Gib weeded the front plants so you could see the bushes around the base on the pole and then painted the flag pole. Gib continued to work on making the grounds look maintained, and today, he continues weeding, planting, mowing, and painting on the Museum grounds. When asked why Gib volunteers, Gib responded by saying it “gives me a chance to meet other leaders in the community and people interested in the Museum.” Gib describes the museum as an enriching experience. He also feels that if the Museum looks welcoming on the outside, that it will look more welcoming to visit on the inside. Although Gib remembers going to 6th grade in the museum when it was a Ward School, he looks forward to a brighter future for the Society and its grounds.

A. Gail Merian, Norwich

Gail started volunteering at the Museum in the early 1990s, assisting Ted Whitney with Native American programs for school children. When Ted passed in 1996, Gail stopped volunteering for the museum. After retiring from Procter & Gamble, Sheffield Bio-Science, The Local History Room at the Guernsey Memorial Library, and the U. S. Army Reserve, Gail started a database for the archaeological artifacts in 2010. When the database was completed with item descriptions and photographs, Gail started scanning boxes of old photographs that show the history of Chenango County. When asked why Gail volunteers for the Museum, she said she enjoys the friendly people, relaxed atmosphere, learning new historical facts, and connecting the past with the present. She enjoys cataloguing artifacts and photographing objects and looks forward to building more databases for the Society.

Bruce Webster, Sherburne

Bruce first helped Ted Whitney in the 1970s, but started volunteering regularly in 2005, when he built a case for the 114th Regiment Flag that resides in the Museum. A retired cabinet maker, Bruce’s woodworking ability has helped in countless projects at the Museum. From his work on the Ross Corners Preston Schoolhouse, to the Lillie boathouse, to the James S. Flanagan Research Center, as well as the original museum building, Bruce’s projects range from constructing ramps to putting in new ceilings. Bruce said he only wants to use his skills and not attend any meetings. Bruce is pleased that his work can be viewed by the public and appreciates when it is enjoyed and used. Bruce continues to help build new displays for the museum every Wednesday with his group of dedicated volunteer builders who accomplish multiple tasks for the Society.

Joan Lorimer, Norwich

Joan, a retired Information Scientist at the Woods Corners laboratory for The Norwich Pharmacal Company and later for Procter & Gamble Pharmaceuticals, started volunteering at the society in 2003 when she entered all the members into a new database. At about the same time, she started an Excel database of all museum acquisitions from the beginning years through 2006. Joan also does the office work for the Annual Antiques Show, and since 2007, she has served as the volunteer bookkeeper. When asked why Joan volunteers, she responded by saying that she enjoys data searching and data entry, but also enjoys working with other volunteers at the Society.

Mary Weidman, South New Berlin

Mary is the Chenango County Clerk and was president of the Museum from 2003-2009. Mary continues to be involved with museum committees, including the Executive Committee and the Barn Committee that is preparing for the moving of the Loomis Barn from Tyner, N.Y. She first got involved in 1999 with the Strategic Plan for more community support when asked by Dale Storms if she had an interest in joining the Board of Directors. Mary respects people who are professionals in their own fields of study. When asked why Mary continues to volunteer, she responded by saying that the Society “tells a story to appreciate what you have,” and that learning is achieved when you learn from others.

Nan Magistro, Norwich

Nan, a retired teacher at York Town Heights, has been volunteering at the Museum since 2006. Nan spent several years transcribing the diaries of Mary Amelia Weeks, who traveled west and struggled to make a living after her husband’s death. Currently, Nan volunteers at the Paperback Book Exchange. When asked why Nan volunteers she responded by saying she always enjoys meeting new people. Often new readers come and find new books and in the process, tell Nan about the books they have read. Nan says this has expanded her horizons, and she now enjoys almost any kind of book.

Museum volunteers are the basis for the Society’s continual growth. Although only a few volunteers were selected for this article, the amount of work and effort that each volunteer puts forth every year is shown throughout the museum. Without volunteers, the Society would not exist as it is today, and the Society owes a huge debt of thanks to every volunteer who has worked at the museum. Whether it has been a few months, a few years, or a few decades, every volunteer counts.

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