Monday, December 9, 2019

Give Me Money: The Subtle Art of Grant Writing

By Rachel Dworkin, Archivist

I recently applied for a grant. Discussing it on the phone with my mom, it occurred to me that most people have no idea how grants work. Grants are the bread and butter of most non-profits and applying for them is both an art and a science. 

There are lots of granting organizations including federal and state agencies, private foundations, and even other non- profits. The first step when applying for a grant is to figure which grant to apply for. Different granting institutions have different agendas and projects they support. For example, I am looking to digitize a collection of audio cassette tapes, so I applied to the South Central Regional Library Council because they have a grant specifically for digitization projects. If, on the other hand, I needed to buy more shelving, I’d apply to for a preservation assistance grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. CCHS regularly apply to the New York State Council of the Arts and the Community Foundation of Elmira-Corning and the Finger Lakes, among others, to fund projects around the museum.

County Foundation annual report, 2008, featuring a write-up for one of our projects they funded.

Each granting organization requires different things before you can get in on their sweet, sweet money. All of them have some sort of formal application process and most have strict deadlines. Generally speaking, granting organizations want to know who you are and what you intend to do with their money before they give it. When I applied for the digitization grant, I had to provide them with information about our museum and our staff as well as a detailed narrative explaining the project, its budget, and how it relates to the goals of the South Central Regional Library Council. 

Once the grant has been submitted, it is reviewed by the granting organization. Many have some sort of committee that reads through the grants to decide who is worthy of money. Both our director and our educator sit on grant committees for local agencies. Members of grant review committees generally represent different expertise and perspectives within the field. They read each of the applications and discuss the pros and cons of the project before deciding which ones to fund. Some things review committees look for include a detailed and well-reasoned budget and signs of diligence and effort. In short, proofreading does make a difference. Something to think about if you end up writing one. 

Even if approved, there’s still quite a bit of work before the funds are released. Most granting organizations require evidence that you spent the money for its intended purpose and that it was money well spent. If I get the grant I applied for, I’ll have to file a mid-year report and a final report documenting what I spent and what the outcomes were. Wish me luck!

Monday, December 2, 2019

New Student Exhibit: The African American Experience in Chemung County

by Mr. John Liquori, 5th Grade Teacher, Horseheads Intermediate School

This is our country, as much as it is the country of any other race.... We may be the descendants of Africans, but we are citizens of the United States. This is our home... 
-Silas X. Floyd 

A large part of the 5th grade New York State Social Studies curriculum, which focuses on the history and governments of the Western Hemisphere, is the struggle for equality that happened to many groups of people in the United States throughout its history. This includes the Black struggle for racial equality, from the transatlantic slave trade and the Middle Passage all the way through the Civil Rights Movement and beyond. Black history is American history and the two should not be taught as if one is only a small part of the other. The Black experience in America is the backbone of the history of this entire nation--a nation built by slaves, torn apart by slavery, and suffers from a continuous struggle for human and civil rights that impacts us even today.

March 11, 1968 protest at Elmira City Hall
As a Social Studies teacher, one of my goals is to show students that any historical topic that can be studied in the broad context of American History can also be applied at the local level. For example, while the American Revolution was being fought throughout the entire thirteen colonies, locally, General Sullivan led a campaign through the Southern Tier which included the Battle of Newtown right outside Elmira. When the Civil War was ripping apart our nation in the 1860s, Confederate soldiers were dying in a prison camp called “Hellmira,” located on the banks of the Chemung River. There are always local ripples that affect the history of our entire country. When we begin to understand that the history of a nation is molded by local events and people, we can then truly understand why local history is so important. That is why in our classroom, American History is taught through a microhistory lens to where we live. This makes history relevant and it makes it real.

John Jones and Ernie Davis
 Starting December 5, there will be a new exhibit at the museum detailing the struggles and victories that local Blacks experienced as they fought for racial equality at home in Chemung County. This exhibit was created by a team of forty-four fifth grade students at Horseheads Intermediate School. These students, only nine and ten years old, were able to do the extraordinary task of taking primary and secondary source material and using it to tell the story from the perspective of those who lived and experienced the struggle for racial equality. This is a project the students worked on over a few months and the end product is incredible. In this exhibit, you will learn about the courage of John W. Jones and other abolitionists. You will learn about the humanitarianism of the Neighborhood House as they worked with local youth. You will read about the activism of the NAACP as they fought against injustices and empowered the Black people in this area. You will see beautiful visuals, including original artwork from Alsace Blandford and much more. There is so much that you will take away after visiting this exhibit. The African American Experience in Chemung County will be on display December 5, 2019 through January 11, 2020.

Orpheus Club party, 1942
Please join us on Thursday, December 5th, 5-7PM at the Chemung County Historical Society as we celebrate the 5th grade students and the important historical work they did to tell this history. There will be food and drinks, the opportunity to see and celebrate the new student-created exhibit, and also the chance to view the rest of the museum as well. This event is free and open to the public. We hope to see you there!

Monday, November 25, 2019

Thanksgiving Dinner: 1900-1950

by Erin Doane, Curator
By now, just three days before Thanksgiving, most people have already planned out their feast. But, if you are among those who are still looking for menu ideas, why not look back to the first half of the 1900s for inspiration? I was curious about how Thanksgiving dinners changed over the years, so I searched through the Elmira Star-Gazette from 1900 through 1950. It turns out that the menus are not all that different from what we eat on the holiday today. After all, a traditional dinner is traditional for a reason. Yet, it was interesting to see how the meals changed during hard times like the Great Depression and both World Wars.
Elaborate dinners have long been a Thanksgiving tradition.
Star-Gazette, November 11, 1908
There were a few dishes that were staples of Thanksgiving dinners over the full span of the 50 years. Nearly every single menu I found had turkey as its centerpiece, which was not a surprise at all. It was, however, sometimes replaced by other meats (particularly during the Great Depression). Almost all the menus also included pumpkin pie. Again, no surprise there. I was a little surprised to see how common oysters were as part of the meal, and delighted to find whole celery (a product of Horseheads in the early 1900s) was also quite popular.

Cranberries were also part of the vast majority of menus I found. There was cranberry sauce, cranberry jelly, cranberry sherbet, cranberry pudding, cranberry pie, or some other cranberry dish on nearly every table in homes and in restaurants for Thanksgiving dinner. Many newspaper articles included new ways to cook cranberries. Click here to find a collection of some of those recipes. But, in 1917, just seven months into the United States involvement in World War I, cranberry sauce was declared taboo on the Thanksgiving menu. There was a sugar shortage because of the war, so the New York Food Conservation Commission discourage people from serving cranberry sauce at their dinners.

Wartime shortages were common again during World War II. In 1943, articles reminded people that despite having to trim their feasts, there were still plenty of traditional dishes that could be made with slight modifications. Stuffing could be made with margarine instead of butter and sweet potatoes could be cooked with molasses rather than sugar. And don’t forget the green tomato pickles made from your own Victory Garden! Just after the end of the war, articles continued to urge people to be respectful of what food they had and not waste a single bite. They also provided a grand array of recipes for leftover turkey.

Use your leftover turkey in a casserole, in a biscuit roll, in a salad,
or in another dish listed in the Star-Gazette on November 24, 1947.
The Great Depression seemed to have had the greatest effect on the holiday menu. During that time, the specific foods served at Thanksgiving dinner took a backseat to the overarching tradition of families getting together for a hearty feast. The dishes at the feast had to be modified, sometimes significantly, because of financial situations. Even turkey had to be given up by many as a luxury. It was replaced by pork, chicken, or beef.

In 1932, an article described a series of menus with price points from $4.50 (about $85 today) to $0.75 (about $14 today) for a family of six. The top-end menu included mushroom or tomato soup, toast sticks, celery, roasted turkey with corn stuffing, giblet gravy, spiced peach relish, mashed white potatoes, onions with nut stuffing, glazed squash, whole wheat and white bread, rosy apple salad, pumpkin ginger pie or pumpkin custard for children. The least expensive menu was a pot roast of beef cooked with apricots, baked potatoes, creamed onions, and squash pie.

Despite the financial troubles of the time, the Community Coffee
 Shop offered an elaborate Thanksgiving dinner with the choice of
eight different entrées and multiple sides and desserts in 1932.
Star-Gazette, November 22, 1932
A Thanksgiving tradition that I’m sure we’re all familiar with popped up at the end of the 1932 article with the various menus – the kids’ table. Miss B. Dorothy Williams, an agent of the Chemung County Home Bureau, stated that, “undoubtedly the children will enjoy the meal more if they have a separate table then their conversation can proceed without interruption and both groups will have a better time.”

Another Thanksgiving tradition that many of us still honor today is a full day of eating, rather than just one large sit-down dinner. It seems that as soon as all the dishes are put away after the initial feast and the kitchen is cleaned up, someone starts taking leftovers out of the fridge for round two. If you would like to add a little more structure to your all-day feasting, here are a couple of menus for Thanksgiving breakfast, dinner, and supper you might enjoy.

Try this all-day Thanksgiving menu from the Star-Gazette on October 18, 1912.
Or this all-day menu from the November 24, 1936 Star-Gazette.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 18, 2019

Full Steam Ahead!

By Susan Zehnder, Education Director

It’s not about trains, planes or automobiles but all about increasing access and offering opportunities. This Wednesday, November 20th, Community Arts of Elmira along with nine other co-hosts, is having a STEAM Ahead Chemung reception from 3:30 pm -5:00 pm and all are invited. The event will showcase work created by local students from three area youth centers, along with seven cultural institutions and providers. 

 STEAM Ahead Chemung is a program designed to connect students with cultural opportunities, and was inspired by a summer program called Circle of Fire offered by the Rockwell Museum and four other institutions. However, what makes STEAM different is the educational focus, time of year it happens, institutions and providers involved, and the kinds of students who participate.

Instead of happening during the summer, STEAM Ahead Chemung takes place in the afternoons during the school year. The institutions or providers who participate make up the traditional definition of ‘STEAM’ in education. That means we have providers who offer science, technology, engineering, and art-focused programs. Although one switch we’ve made is, instead of the expected math for ‘m,’ we’ve substituted movement and included a yoga instructor.

A busy youth center

Students in our program come from three specific afterschool youth centers. Many have not had opportunities to visit some of our local cultural institutions. Often adults in their lives don’t have the time and or money to visit museums or participate in special activities. One founding goal for STEAM Ahead Chemung is to not only increase access by inviting students in the door, but to hand them the “key” to come back. That key might be finding out what that institution is all about, or how they might fit in. It might include modeling how to act and what to expect when visiting. Hard data shows that if people don’t visit museums as children, they’re less likely to even think about visiting as adults.

STEAM Ahead Chemung is now three years old. Each year it has been generously funded and supported by a grant from the Triangle Fund. While not a large program, it is mighty. Most of the original institutions/providers have continued and each year we’ve been able to adjust things to make a stronger student experience. For example, last year, STEAM visits happened in January and February and we found that weather became an issue, interrupting plans and schedules. This year STEAM visits started in the fall and the number of students participating has grown.

STEAM planning actually starts months before any visits happen. Each year the seven providers get together and agree on an overall theme. The theme acts like glue to connect the students’ experiences as they have different educators visit them or they visit different institutions. This year motion was our chosen theme. 

What does motion look like through the lens of different institutions? At the Arnot Art Museum, one of our partners, the students started by looking at the Crafting Identity exhibit, featuring art which highlights figures in motion. Students then imagined what happened before and after each image, and tried to unpack what stories the artist may be trying to tell. Students learned some of the ways motion can be expressed in two-dimensional artwork, then created their own work, incorporating their favorite form of movement like dancing, swimming, running, etc.

Motion for another provider was very different. Science & Discovery presented ideas about projectiles, and together the students built catapults.

Here at the Chemung Valley History Museum, we had a two-part program. For the first part we visited each youth center, and the second part had the students visiting the museum. For both we used the museum's current exhibit Getting Around: Transportation in Chemung County as inspiration. 

Getting Around: Transportation in Chemung County, a CCHS exhibit up til spring 2020

At the youth centers, we talked about the area's early aviation history. The students created their own paper airplanes, and then tested their skills measuring the distance each plane flew.
Future plane designer

During their visit to the museum, students toured the transportation exhibit, then created simple paper cars using cardboard, tape, pencils, rubber bands and a little tubing. And yes, they really moved.

Paper car

Curious to see more? We hope so.

Enthusiastic STEAMers!

To learn more about this program, and to see additional photos, including a few test flight videos follow @MarktheMammoth on Instagram and check out the STEAM Ahead Chemung facebook page. Wednesday's November 20th reception takes place from 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm at Community Arts of Elmira 413 Lake Street.