Historical society seeks helpers

July 17, 2013
Eben Williams, administrator of the Greene County Historical Society amid a vast collection of documents waiting to be archived in the society’s library. - Tara Kinsell / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

WAYNESBURG – Help wanted to maintain a 52-room, plantation-style house with multiple out buildings. Compensation and benefits are in the form of personal satisfaction for a job well done. It doesn’t sound like an offer many would accept. However, for as long as the Greene County Historical Society Museum has operated out of the former Greene County Poor Farm, a handful of volunteers have done just that, maintained the buildings and holdings of the society. They have also held festivals, tours and events at the property, all without remuneration of the monetary sort.

“There is so much to do. We need people to go through and organize old files, someone to put up Christmas decorations if that is your thing, to work the gates at the Harvest Festival or ask the vendors if they need a bathroom break or need a sandwich,” said Linda Rush, vice-president of the historical society board. “It is endless. If people love history or just pretty things to look at then they would be a big help inventorying rooms.”

Rush said simply dusting its many rooms would take days on end to clean the museum for the handful of volunteers currently available. Something as simple as helping hang donated curtains would take one more thing off of the to-do list. Someone to help cut a board, or hand nails to her husband, Brice Rush, who has been reconstructing a donated log cabin at the property, would also be very welcome.

It is a set of daunting tasks faced by the society, with a growing collection of not only documents, photos and other archival materials, but historical buildings. The list of volunteers has not kept up with that growth.

The most recent acquisition by the society, the Roseberry Barbershop, is but one of the projects that will need a lot of TLC to put it on permanent display at the museum.

Museum administrator Eben Williams is split in many directions. He answers phones, gives tours, archives materials, seeks grant funding and represents the society at local events like the recent Whiskey Rebellion Festival in Washington County.

To help free him up for the most important society tasks, Williams said he would like to have a rotating schedule for volunteers, similar to the one followed by volunteers at the local hospital.

“I would like to build up the pool of volunteers here and if people want to choose a day, like they do at the hospital, where they are here on Tuesdays (for example), that would work,” he said.

Williams has worked with local colleges and universities to bring in interns with some success. But their summer and winter breaks leave large gaps when he could really use the extra hands and minds to continue with the multiple tasks that need to be completed.

As he stood among thousands of documents, books and other materials inside the society’s library, once home to boiler room of the poor farm, Williams discussed his long range plans for its contents. Eventually he would like to have an accessible data base where patrons could locate materials pertinent to historical research they are conducting. Initially that would mean a database of titles available to view at the society’s library. Down the road, photos and some of the smaller documents may also be available. That will take a lot of help and Williams believes there are people in the community who have the skill sets and extra time to offer. Currently, the library is not open and does not circulate material while the archival project continues.

There are so many ways one can help the historical society that Rush is sure there is some task suitable to everyone, from setting up and tearing down after events to answering the phone. Those who can’t volunteer may help in the form of donations of simple things like paper towels, toilet paper, and bottled water.

“It is the little things that the museum needs that we have to take out of our limited funds to pay the electricity, telephone and Internet,” Rush said. Mostly, an “extra pair of hands or two,” is what would make a world of difference, she added.

Anyone who would like to lend a hand or make a donation may contact the Greene County Historical Society at 724-627-3204.

Tara Kinsell started her career in journalism with the National Geographic Insider Magazine and the Gaithersburg Gazette Newspaper in Montgomery County, Md. Tara has written and photographed sports, features and news stories for the Herald Standard, Greene County Messenger and Albert Gallatin Weekly. She holds degrees in journalism and graphic design from Waynesburg College, now Waynesburg University, and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, respectively.

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