Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Doing History

by Bruce Whitmarsh, Director

Throughout March the Chemung County Historical Society has been highlighting the interesting history of some amazing local women as part of our celebration of Women’s History Month. I wanted to take a moment and recognize the women doing history right here at the CCHS. I have four dedicated and talented professionals who make the CCHS work every day.

Erin Doane is the curator here at the Historical Society and the results of her work are the most public. Anytime that you see an exhibit in the Chemung Valley History Museum, at one of our ECSD school partners or somewhere else in the community, this is Erin’s work. Creating and installing the exhibits is not all that is on her plate, she is also responsible for the care and maintenance of our three dimensional collection, everything from furniture to fire trucks and pottery to paintings. The CCHS has over 25,000 items in this collection and it is always growing. For greater insight into the job of a curator, check out Erin’s blog at http://chemung-valley-curator.tumblr.com/curatorsday.

Erin in her 1920s attire at the opening of our Chemung County in the 1920s exhibit.
Rachel Dworkin, our archivist, is well known to all the researchers of our area. She oversees the Booth Library and Archives. This part of the Historical Society holds all the manuscripts, newspapers, letters photographs and other such material. In all there is nearly one million pieces in this collection. The Booth Library and Archives is the primary resource for local history and Rachel is very familiar with the collection, quickly able to direct researchers to the resources they are looking for.
Rachel in the Booth Library and Archives
Kelli Huggins is a familiar face to the school children of this area. She is the Museum educator, responsible for all of our programming. This includes all of the visits in to classrooms. In January through March 2016, Kelli will reach almost 1200 students through in class visits. She also develops this programming as well, matching classroom needs with museum resources to make history come alive for the students. Thanks to Kelli we have a strong and growing home school program, reaching a new audience for this institution and better utilizing our resources for the entire community. Kelli’s hard work does not stop with the students however, if you have ever been to a lecture or program here at the museum, she did that as well.

Kelli leading a gold panning program with 2nd graders.
Probably the least publicly known staff member is Christine Gunderson, our office manager. She handles all of our everyday transactions, balancing monthly statements, paying bills and keeping us all in line with our budgets. She also oversees the front desk staff, keeps the membership database up to date, and handles all the rental and upkeep of the Lawrence Chapel. She might not be in public eye very often, but every project we do some part of it passes through her office.

Individually each of these women do an outstanding job, collectively they form a tremendous team. We are a small business and to get everything done, everyone pitches in. Exhibits are the responsibility of Erin, but they would not be complete without the hard work of Rachel and Kelli’s contributions. School groups are Kelli’s domain, but the rest of the staff helps make things work when 65 second graders show up and it takes all of the staff doing their respective jobs and more to make our big events, like GhostWalk, happen.

I am very proud of this staff and the great work they do along with making my job much easier. I hope that the next time you visit, either online or in person, you will take a minute to recognize all the hard work it takes to make this place function and think about the great staff that gets it all done.


  1. It's very appropriate to inform us about this fine staff. Thanks to all of you.

  2. I am very honored to work with yourself and these fine ladies especially Rachel whom I work with in the Archives Dept. transcribing diaries .. I very much enjoy working here as a volunteer and everyone makes me feel like I am part of the family !!