Last September, the Suffolk County Historical Society unveiled the results of a survey conducted among historical societies across the region. The event was called “Looking in the Mirror: Assessing the Future of Historical Societies of Suffolk County.”
The survey results revealed that many historical societies share similar problems: paltry budgets, aging patrons and inadequate staffing.
Like so many nonprofits, our local historical societies operate on limited resources and rely on community support. Unfortunately, that support comes mostly from one very specific demographic: older, white, upper-middle-class residents.
For historical societies, the key to creating sustainable fundraising opportunities and establishing new support bases is exhibits that attract a more diverse audience, said Marie Thigpen, director of Adelphi University’s Center for Nonprofit Leadership. Support from residents under age 40 is crucial, she noted.
Coincidentally, around the same time the results of the survey were released, the historic home renovation discovery detailed in this week’s newspaper was made.
This weekend’s Stirling Historical Society event showcasing artifacts Greenport residents have found in their homes — like the circus billboards used to build a house on Broad Street — is exactly the type of exhibit that can inspire residents to participate in local historical societies. It’s a unique, revealing and interactive event that should appeal to people of all ages.
We hope that reading this week’s story will inspire more people to attend Saturday’s event. We’re also curious about other discoveries that might be shared.
Our local historical societies are by design the guardians of our town’s stories and treasures. Attending the events they organize is one small way we can all help protect both their futures and Southold Town’s rich past.
Photo Caption: A circus gypsy from a Walter L. Main circus billboard. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)