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The Chemung County Historical Societyis a historical society headquartered in the Chemung Canal Bank Building in Elmira, New York, and is dedicated to the collection, preservation, and presentation of the cultural history of the Chemung Valley region. The Society was founded in 1923 and first chartered by New York State in 1947. It is accredited by the American Association of Museums, and currently operates two cultural repositories, the Chemung Valley History Museum and the Booth Library, both as non-profit educational institutions. It runs the largest general history museum in the region.
History of the societyEdit
In 1923 the Chemung County Historical Society was founded by Dr. A. W. Booth, Harry Hoffman, Chester Howell, Jabin Secor, Harrison Chapman, Joseph H. Pierce, H.H. Bickford and Edward B. Billings. At that time the society was organized by volunteers who formed small archival and artifact collections. In 1947, the society was chartered by New York State; in 1977 the board of trustees reorganized their by-laws, and at that point in time the Historical Society launched a capital fund drive to purchase and renovate the former Chemung Canal bank building at 415 E. Water Street to use as a museum and head office. The Historical Society was accredited by The American Association of Museums in 1986. Seventeen years of planning and the financial support from a National Endowment for the Humanities Challenge Grant, saw the finished renovations to the museum and head office building in 1993. In 1999 the Chemung County Historical Society was re-accredited by the American Association of Museums. At present the Chemung County Historical Society has 4 staff positions and members throughout 23 states and even in Canada.
The Chemung County Historical Society is located at 415 East Water Street in Elmira, New York in the Chemung Canal Bank Building. The Historical Society operates two facilities; the Chemung Valley History Museum, located on the first floor, and the Booth Library archival repository, located on the second. From 1833 until 1920, 415 East Water Street served as the Chemung Canal Bank headquarters and then as various offices. Since the Historical Society purchased it in 1977, it has been restored and renovated. The building itself is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The building originally had two and a half stories and a third story was added in 1868. The bank was a brick structure with stepped gables, where as most of the buildings in Elmira were made of wood, the bank expressed a Greek revival idiom with transitional Federal-style elements. The entrance to the building would have been a stone stoop with steps adorned with an ornamental wrought iron railing. Like many other buildings of the era the bank may have consisted of a center hall with one or two rooms on either side, as well as a substantial staircase, although no evidence has been found to verify this. The building is believed to have been remodeled 1903 by the architectural firm Pierce and Bickford when the Chemung Canal Bank merged with the Elmira Trust Company. In December 1920 the Chemung Canal Trust Company moved to a new facility and the bank building came under the ownership of the Arnot Realty Company.
Collections and exhibitsEdit
At the heart of The Chemung County Historical Society lies its collection of documents, photographs, books, maps, and artifacts. Currently the three dimensional collection consists of more than 18,000 artifacts including a large textile collection. The Booth Library contains more than a million items, a collection including 2,500 books, 14,000 photographs, 30,000 manuscripts and 11,000 maps and architectural records. The Historical Society has storage space on the second and third floors of their main offices, as well as an adjacent building and additional off-site storage. The museum has generally has upwards of 200 items on display, slightly less than 2% of the total collection. There are three main gallery spaces in the museum. The permanent exhibit, located in the Bank Gallery, showcases an overview of Chemung County history. The Barn and Howell Galleries are home to the museum’s rotating exhibits and change several times a year.
Accomplishments and awardsEdit
The Chemung County Historical Society has earned many grants, achievements and awards. The Historical Society has won a 14-year grant cycle with the New York State Arts Council’s Arts-In-Education Division for programming in rural school districts, a 20-year grant cycle with IMLS for general operating support funds, an NEH Challenge Grant, and a save Our History grant from The History Channel in 2005. The AASLH has given the Historical Society Awards of Merit and Certificate of Commendation for exhibitions and programs including A Heritage Uncovered: the Black Experience in Upstate New York; Outsiders All: Nineteenth Century Prisons, Mental Hospitals and Asylums; and The High Line: A City Divided, A City United. The Historical Society has also received an Award of Merit from the Upstate History Alliance for the Chemung Historical Journal in 2003 and the exhibit Never Done: Women and Work in Chemung County, 1880-1920 in 2010. A National Award of Merit was presented to the Historical Society from the retirement Research Foundation for the video, A Heritage Uncovered, and its subsequent broadcast on PBS Television Network. The Historical Society is accredited with the American Association for Museums and was selected as one of six Mid-Atlantic region museums to participate in AAM’s National Interpretation Project in 1999-2000.
- Chemung County Historical Society, "Booth Library of the Chemung County Historical Society" (pamphlet), Elmira NY.
- Chemung County Historical Society, "Chemung Valley History Museum", (pamphlet), Elmira NY.
- Chemung County Historical Society, "Chemung Canal Bank Building", (pamphlet copyright CCHS 1989), Elmira NY.
- Chemung County Historical Society, "Institutional Fact Sheet" (loose leaf), Elmira NY.
- Chemung County Historical Society, "Organizational History" (loose leaf), Elmira NY.
- Chemung County Historical Society, "Minutes, Volume 1" 1923 Elmira NY.
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