Thursday, December 5, 2013

Washington County History Fair 2013

October 26, 2013 marked the third history fair put on by the Washington County Historical Society. I participated in all 3 history fairs.

The 1st was in 2009 at the Historic Salem Courthouse in Salem, NY. I had an idea for a display that was kind of quirky & it didn't really work. I decided to play off the movie Office Space & create a version of local history "fair." I don't think a single person understood the reference, but they liked the buttons. Lesson #1: Know your audience.

The 2nd was held at Greenwich High School in the village of Greenwich, NY in 2011. This time I basically grabbed anything I thought was cool in my office & brought it along. I was able to have a conversation with some local history buffs relating to the glass plate negatives that a random resident donated. Lesson #2: Bring cool stuff.

For the 3rd year, the history fair was at the Granville Elementary School in Granville, NY. I decided on a poster presentation to talk up the ways in which public historians can use social media to reach out to their communities both near & far. Some of you may know that I use Facebook & twitter (@greenwichhist) to keep everyone abreast of what I am up to, as well as interesting things about history in general. Plus, this blog has allowed me to write about local history in an informal way.

Working on my poster presentation

One of the Gill Room displays

Another display about John Brown, his wife Mary Ann & Lucretia Mott

Many of the exhibitors, public historians, re-enactors, & other local history groups had poster presentations. I did chat with quite a few people, including the newly appointed historian for Jackson, NY. It seemed like many of the visitors were families with school age children, or retirees.

Part of my display- poster presentation, brochures, mugs

The rest of my display- artifacts from the Bicentennial of the USA in 1976
I guess I am hoping that someone out there, reading this will have a suggestion or 2 for how we can make this event better & attract more visitors. There are so many events to compete with, how do we stand out? & the larger question, how do we, as historians, get people interested in history?

I tried this year, by using my grandmother's Bicentennial collection. I chose items that related locally, like calendars from local businesses (Muzicar's in Schuylerville, Agway in Greenwich), & programs from local events. The quirky things like the Campbell Soup Kid dolls, the Uncle Sam bank, & the Bicentennial box of tissues were draws, but most people looked at the book of 1st day covers. After all these years, people still love stamps.

Let me know in the comments below, on my Facebook page, or tweet me if you have any suggestions (& if you attended the history fair). Thanks for reading.

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