As a great-grandson and namesake of Paul Weiss (1865-1941) who served as Mayor of Dunkirk 1928-1931, and on behalf of our members, staff and volunteers, thank you for your support and interest in the Historical Society of Dunkirk & Dunkirk Historical Museum. Despite the unusual challenges of 2020, many good things continue to happen as we build upon the momentum of the leadership of my predecessors, Dr. James R. Hurtgen (2016-19) and Raymond Rushboldt (2020):
Among the latest successes since our founding on March 12, 1973, are upgrades and repairs to the Museum, enhanced and expanded programming, expertly archived physical and online collections, new and special exhibits, additional funding sources and renewed sponsorships.
We are grateful for support from the City of Dunkirk for the Community Development Block Grant through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. We intend to apply for further grants from other sources in addition to those we have already received, from the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation (NCCF), the Arts Services Initiative of WNY, Humanities NY and KeyBank. The new NCCF Bob Harris Endowment is helping generate investment income. Our major donor appeals have been met with considerable success, too.
The City of Dunkirk and NCCF have both contributed to helping us maintain the c.1930 architecture of our Museum at 513 Washington Avenue. Most apparent is our beautified street façade for greater “curb appeal.” This includes the repainted building sign, repaired brickwork, reglazed windows, and (upcoming) refurbished front doors. Capping this off is landscaping which our group gathered to install, led by landscaper Sam Mancuso with the assistance of Mary Rees of Revitalize Dunkirk’s Beautification Committee. It looks great!
Our permanent collection of ALCO-Brooks Works and rail artifacts in the Museum tells an important story about the growth and times in our early community, and is among the finest in the state. Roy Davis and Roger Schulenberg, along with Scott Symans, help preserve our rail legacy with upkeep and operation of the Brooks Fairground Exhibit & Museum Display. Roy and Roger are looking for qualified successors – anyone interested should contact them.
Two years ago, under a federal grant through the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Foundation for Advancement in Conservation, we engaged the Collections Assessment Program (CAP) to conduct an audit which produced a report identifying our strengths and challenges. We are implementing these findings as we develop a Strategic Plan to operate more professionally. We have also joined the Museum Association of New York (MANY).
Members and donors can now pay online using our convenient and cyber-secure PayPal page and we are already receiving payments. A goal is to put our Gift Shop online and offer hi-res digital prints from our collection. We participate in AmazonSmile (https://smile.amazon.com) which offers all the same items, prices and benefits of its sister website, but contributes 0.5% of eligible purchases to a charity of your choice. If you shop Amazon, please use this option.
All members get automatic access to Time Travelers (https://timetravelers.mohistory.org), a free reciprocal membership network for history museums, sites and societies throughout the U.S. that includes over 300 organizations in more than 40 states. The program offers a wide variety of exclusive benefits and privileges, such as free admission and gift shop discounts.
Once again, we commend the talented efforts of highly experienced executive director Jane Babinsky, administrative assistant Stephanie Pulvino, curator Ellen Bailey, archivist Wayne Mori, photo manager and city historian Diane Andrasik, researcher Denise Griggs, building manager Bill Meister, multi-taskers Al & Jude Hollander, and Peter Komada, Jr. working to digitize the archives, as well as all our other helpers. The work never ends, and is important.
In addition to Treasurer Magaly Myers and Secretary Sally Graves, ongoing board members include Vice President Frank Beach, Mary Carney, Brandon Katta, Wayne Mori, Raymond Rushboldt and Sharon Perdue. The well-deserved retirement of President Emeritus James R. Hurtgen means we now have two open board seats – to learn more about this rewarding role and the chance to make a lasting positive change, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
With 2020 behind us, the focus is on securing our financial future with additional grants and fundraising programs to support specific objectives. Donations have already been received to pay for restoration and scanning of the Brooks Locomotive Works illustration, so we can sell museum-quality art prints. We also are accepting donations to pay for eventual relocation of the Brooks Neptune Fountain from the SUNY Fredonia campus to permanent exhibit inside our Museum. On our wish list is a much-needed backyard storage garage to free up valuable space in the Museum. Anyone willing to donate to these or other projects, please contact us.
Anticipated 2021 events may include: Backyard BBQ, Ice Cream Social, Community Yard Sale, Golf Outing, Walking Tours of Cemeteries and Washington Park Neighborhood, our popular bi-annual Tour of Historic Homes, Military Observance including Medal of Honor Recipient Thomas Horan, Mobile Pub Crawl of Historic Mom & Pop Tavern sites, Taste of Prohibition II with more “medicinal” whiskey, Christmas Open House, and special exhibits.
Visiting the Museum is a great way to reconnect with your community, and we look forward to seeing you. Hours are 1-4 p.m. Mondays & Fridays, 3-6 p.m. Wednesdays; phone 716-366-3797. Our website also features vast historic content including a scanned set of Dunkirk High School yearbooks 1950-1989. Follow our Facebook page for latest events, news and updates.
History is as much about people as it is things, places and events, taking on the most value when we rediscover our own past. If you are reading this, thank you for caring about Dunkirk’s history.
Paul Scheeler, Board President