After more than 30 years, lifelong Southold resident Peggy Murphy is retiring from Southold Historical Museum’s education of youth program.
Ms. Murphy has chaired the committee since its founding, shortly after the donation of the Bay View Schoolhouse in 1990. Already a longtime teacher — she retired from the Southold school district with 29 years under her belt in 1995 — Ms. Murphy spearheaded the initiative to facilitate historically themed field trips for local elementary students, as well as other programs geared towards children.
“I’m quite proud of this complex, I think it’s a treasure. And the only way you’re going to keep that safe is if the young people coming up feel an ownership or an affinity with the complex,” she said, referring to the historical buildings maintained by the museum on Main Road. The education committee’s programs are “important in keeping the history alive here,” she added.
Raised in Southold, Ms. Murphy was already familiar with local history and was a volunteer with the historical society when she joined the education committee. “My parents were very involved, particularly my father, with the history here and various events that promoted it,” she said.
The annual Step Back in History Week, which offers educational programming for kindergartners through sixth-graders, is perhaps one of her most prominent accomplishments in her time with the historical museum. Activities range from a visit to the Bay View Schoolhouse, where third-graders write with a quill, to a fifth-grade trip to the Old Burying Ground of the First Presbyterian Church of Southold, where students learn about the history of American mourning rituals and how to make a grave rubbing without damaging the stone.
“I enjoyed almost every minute of it,” Ms. Murphy said of her time on the committee, adding that she “can’t say enough about the quality of people who volunteer … It wouldn’t have happened without their enthusiasm.”
Executive director Deanna Witte-Walker estimates that, through her programming via the education of youth committee, Ms. Murphy has impacted roughly 15,000 children over the years. At a party honoring Ms. Murphy last week, Ms. Witte-Walker emphasized the integral role Ms. Murphy played in the education of youth committee and the historical museum at large.
“She has chaired and volunteered many committees and programs,” Ms. Witte-Walker said. “When I find myself sifting through minutes of years past, I find her name everywhere — exhibits, candlelight tour, ice cream social, harvest dinner, potluck supper, etc. Her passion has had no boundaries.”
Ms. Murphy is proud the education of youth program has lasted so long, and that it’s “still as strong as it was in the beginning.” Some students who participated in the committee’s programs have gone on to intern with the museum.
Southold resident and historical museum volunteer Cheryle Amara will take over upon Ms. Murphy’s retirement. Ms. Murphy said she told Ms. Amara that “the one thing [she’d] like to see happen is to develop a program for seventh grade in the print shop.”