Monday, October 4, 2021

It Takes a Village

 by Susan Zehnder, Education Director

CCHS has a small but mighty staff. Getting all the things we do done can often mean that we need help. We are grateful for our volunteers who help us out in so many different ways, and they are our ‘village.’ Volunteers have represented CCHS at different events, set up systems to make our work smoother, created inventories to keep track of journals, prepared activity bags for students, took tickets, greeted people at museum functions, scanned photos, and completed information documenting our collections. One volunteer even tested out our Ghost Walk path to make sure that this year it will be wheelchair friendly. When we pivoted to more online work, we found volunteers who worked remotely transcribing recordings from our collection, and others who videotaped and posted dramatic readings of past historical figures. By no means is this a comprehensive list but here are some of our volunteers along with a few of the things they’ve been working on. They also answered what cool discovery they’ve come across while volunteering.

Karen puts in about 10 hours a week at the Historical Society, helping out on all sorts of projects. Lately, she's put her previous background in lab work to use taking precise notes and entering information to reconcile the museum's stored collections. One of the cool discoveries she's come across was the original 1870 marriage certificate of Samuel and Olivia Clemens. Another surprise she came across was a beautiful array of intricate bone, stone, and ivory Inuit carvings. Karen started volunteering in 2019 greeting visitors at the front desk and for the past two summers she has sat at our information desk at Wisner Park during Thursday market days, spreading the word on the Museum's new exhibits and events. She also pitched in to help with last year's Ghost Walk. We have been lucky that Karen called us to volunteer and share her time and efforts helping us get our work done.

Karen and Susan sitting at Wisner Park

Daniel is another volunteer who contacted us looking to add to his academic and archive skills and experience. He has been putting in about 8 hours over two days a week organizing the Elmira Central Christian Church information. The Historical Society received many of the Church’s boxes of papers and information to organize, put into boxes and folders, and document. When asked what discovery he’s found, Daniel mentioned how working with the collection has let him see an evolution of the organization and arch of their story over time. Daniel’s volunteer efforts are critical in keeping ahead of the archive’s continuously growing collections.

Daniel working with our collection

Bob remembers his history classes fondly while growing up. As a volunteer, he divides his 6-8 hours a week between greeting visitors and organizing our vast journal collection. A collection that started way before digital devices. Bob is a people person always quick with a smile, compliment or a joke. He says he loves to show people around the museum helping them discover new things about the area. Responding to the coolest thing he’s come across, he cites the old bank vaults (and is still searching out lost pennies!) Bob has enjoyed rediscovering some of the history right here in Elmira and Chemung County, and says he believes the Chemung Valley History Museum is a great place to find out more.

Bob greeting visitors at the front desk

Georgia has been volunteering at the Chemung County Historical Society on a steady basis since early 2017, documenting photos from our vast collection. She is also a loyal attendee at our Out to Lunch talks and programs. “I only thought I knew about our history in Chemung County, but once I started working with the photos I realized I didn’t have a clue about how much history there is in this area. I couldn’t pick just one thing that was really cool - I didn’t realize Babe Ruth had played at Dunn Field, that a canoe train that would bring the canoes to a designated area, or that there were two airports in Elmira – one near Caton Ave. and another where Broadway School is located. The list of things that existed in Chemung County that I have found out about is long and it has been a wonderful journey. I look forward to every time I volunteer – just waiting to see what I will discover next.” 


Georgia working on photo documentation

Georgia, like Karen, Daniel, and Bob are just a few of the people who help us get it done, and we thank them and all our volunteers for their contributions to the Chemung County Historical Society. If you're interested in getting involved, or find out more about what we do, send an email to

Heather testing the Ghost Walk route

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