The People Behind the Scenes at Museums
He wears many hats at this local historical society
How would you describe your job?
My formal title is "History & Museum Consultant." That means I am not an employee; I am an independent contractor and the only paid person at the Delhi Historical Society. Everyone else is a volunteer. My main duties are to help the Board of Directors plan, organize, staff, and operate the Delhi Historical Society, its museum & research center, programs, and related activities. In a phrase, I do a bit of everything to help the Society run.
What’s something at the Delhi Historical Society that you wish visitors noticed more?
Two things: 1 - Our interpretive labels, which describe our exhibits. 2 - Our silk carnations, for $1.00 in our gift shop. Attached to each carnation is a very short biography of Richard Witterstaetter, who was known across the USA as the “Carnation King” for his award-winning and patented variants of carnations. His work is partly the reason Delhi Township is known as the "Floral Paradise of Ohio."
What’s something in your job, whether part of your job description or just something you choose to do, that most visitors would not realize you do?
Cleaning. Situated on a busy roadway, we get trash in our front yard which I pick up almost daily. Also, I clean and keep organized our research center, office, and basement. And, occasionally, I even clean the toilet in the restroom!
What does the Delhi Historical Society do to create a positive visitor experience?
We listen to our visitors. When people visit, a photograph or object may trigger a memory which visitors love to share. We listen and often learn from them. We ask them questions about their memories and truly listen to what our visitors have to say. It is an opportunity for us to learn from them!
Our research center specializes in local genealogy and many of our visitors seek information on their families and ancestors. When we find something related to their family, we can tell we have connected to our visitor. Just two days ago, a man in his sixties and his wife brought their grandchildren to see if our Research Center had any information on their family home and the man's grandfather. We showed them a three-foot wide panoramic photo of his families' First Annual Reunion in 1929. A few minutes later, we played a recording of his grandfather being interviewed in 1980. It was the first time in decades he had heard his grandfather's voice. And the first time his grandchildren had heard their great-great grandfather's voice. When the family left, they were clearly happy with their visit.
We exist for our visitors and work to give them a positive experience whenever they visit our museum, Research Center, or attend our programs.
How does the Delhi Historical Society benefit visitors’ wellbeing?
This goes right to the heart of why we exist. I have often considered this question: What is the value of history? In all my readings, experience, and discussion with others, I've determined that a person who knows his community's history feels connected to his community. He realizes he is part of something bigger than himself and is much more likely to be a builder, rather than a destroyer of his community. So, when we share our history with our visitors, we are helping to make them better citizens, which benefits everyone around us. Adlai Stevenson said in 1950: "We can chart our future clearly and wisely only when we know the path which has led to the present." By sharing our history with our visitors, we are helping them to chart their future wisely.
Learn more about the Delhi Historical Society or go visit them, just outside Cincinnati.
Have you visited your local history museum or historical society? They often preserve the stories and the artifacts that the bigger museums don't.