Agnes Eaton Appointed As Norwich City Historian
Published: April 11th, 2022
By: Sarah Genter

Agnes Eaton appointed as Norwich City Historian City of Norwich Deputy City Clerk Agnes Eaton has taken on the additional role of City Historian. She will be assisting the city in managing local historical records, writing historical articles, and answering questions from the public about local history. (Photo by Sarah Genter)

NORWICH — The City of Norwich recently appointed Deputy City Clerk Agnes Eaton as the City Historian.

The city is required by New York State to have a historian, but one has not been appointed in some time. According to City of Norwich Mayor Brian Doliver, Eaton had already been handling some of the responsibilities usually given to the City Historian, making her a good fit for the official role.

"Historically the City Historian has managed the records management and Agnes has been doing that. She’s really good with the research, and all the proclamations that get done involve a lot of research, and Agnes does that all the time. So I thought that was a perfect fit for Agnes to be our City Historian," he said. "We haven’t had [a City Historian] in a long time, and we just felt this was the best way forward. But there will be other things involved and Agnes has a lot of great ideas."

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Eaton said she especially likes the records management and research side of the job. She said area residents are welcome to call her at 607-334-1201 with any questions about local history, and she will conduct research using historical records, meeting minutes, internet searches, and by exploring the Guernsey Memorial Library Local History Room.

Depending on the type of information an individual is looking for, Eaton said they are also welcome to make an appointment to visit the historical records room, or explore other resources in the city.

"It depends on if they're searching for something city related, then they can always search the minutes, which are always online. They can make an appointment if they need to go through the historical stuff, because a lot of it is in file cabinets, so that is fairly easily accessible," she explained.

"The library is always a good resource, the Chenango County Historical Society is always a good resource. So there’s lots of places to find information. Unfortunately it’s like bits and pieces here and there, so it just all depends on what they’re actually looking for in terms of information," she added.

The city's historical records were recently moved to the third floor of the Norwich Firehouse, a move in which Doliver said Eaton played an "instrumental" role. The next step is conducting an inventory of all the city's records, something Eaton hopes to get started next year.

"There’s a lot of things that need to be done with that, because right now all the books and all that stuff that was not in a file cabinet are packed in boxes right now. So that needs to be all kind of laid out and there needs to be an inventory done," said Eaton. "It kind of goes with the records management: All of our records management needs to have an inventory done. So that’s going to be all kind of encompassing in one project."

"We did apply for a grant to do the inventory, but we were not successful in that grant. So hopefully by next year we’ll be in a good place to apply for the grant for the inventory," she continued. "You really need a professional to do that ... If one person had to do that it would take years, versus a professional organization or something like that doing the inventory."

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While the city is still adjusting to having an official historian, there are a few ideas in the works already, such as establishing a historical page on the City of Norwich website.

"One thing I want to do is start, not a historian’s page, but a historical page on our city’s website. I’ve been, for quite a while now, collecting a lot of photographs and things that I would like to put on there. So now that I’m actually the historian I can do that," said Eaton.

She will also begin working on writing a few historical articles each year, which will serve to both inform the public on the city's history, and create a historical record of current events.

"In order to know where you’re going sometimes you need to know where you came from, and I think it would be nice to have an article maybe two or three times a year," said Doliver. "Agnes is going to plan on doing something soon, and in the future she may do something or she may collaborate with others to do something. So she’ll play editor or something almost, on some things."

Involving the community will be a key aspect that Doliver wants to focus on as well.

"We're excited to have people in our community that will be able to write a piece for us at times. So we’re excited to be able to collaborate like that," said Doliver. "This is not just about one person, it’s about kind of opening it up to the public, and if they have some information and they’d like to share it, we’d love to have them write a piece for us."

For the first article, the subject is being left up to Eaton. She said she hopes to have it completed around Founder's Day on April 17, which marks the day Norwich was first established as a village in 1816.

"My first thought was maybe doing like a mayor’s history," said Eaton. "I have all the mayors' history, but just kind of picking through the years, like major things during their terms or whatever. Now, I don’t know if that’s going to pan out, but I’m trying to get it done before the 17th. But we’ll see."

Although they're starting small, Doliver said the first step of appointing a City Historian is finally done, and hopefully in the future Eaton's role will only continue to grow.

"This year was just kind of getting our feet wet with Agnes and just kind of getting the word out to the public, and hopefully we get more people calling in with questions. And then two or three articles a year, and then maybe it’ll mushroom into something different," said Doliver. "That was the big push for this year, was to get a City Historian, because it’s been so long. Sometimes the easiest things to do are the hardest things to do. But here we are."