In advance of Heritage Day this Monday, I wanted to take a few minutes to update you on the health of the Society, and of the Museum.
As many of you know, membership numbers have been in decline for some time. Additionally, several key members have died or moved away, resulting in a loss of active leadership. And finally, a flood two winters ago introduced mold into the basement of the Museum, which was not properly remediated. As a result, the building has been closed now for several months.
I would like to address the issues of membership and finance first, with an assurance that your new board — Joe, Deb, Mark and myself — have set a goal of 50 new members by the end of the year, and 100 new members the year after. Not all of these will be active in the Society, but that’s not necessarily our aim. What is our aim is to return the dues paying membership back to a sustaining number to cover running costs of the Society. Additionally, we have approached the Town to renegotiate the terms of the lease on the Museum, to relieve the Society of the expense of maintaining the 1860 structure. In return, we will be entirely re-envisioning the upstairs public portion of the Museum as a more user-friendly space, open for small Town meetings, functions and educational purposes, with a rotating series of exhibits that will highlight and interpret Southborough’s long and fascinating history. For too long the Museum has been closed off to public access, and that must change if the Society wishes to survive in the 21st century.
Regarding the mold issues, you will be relieved to learn that Town officials, in particular the ever-helpful John Parent, Facilities Manger, have been wonderfully accommodating, helping us file an insurance claim for mold remediation. As you can see from the above photo, the first phase of this process has been largely completed. Every object, box and document in the basement has been carefully packed up and moved to a 40′ storage container graciously donated by Eagle Leasing. Mold infested drywall has been removed, and each and every surface vacuumed and then wiped down with sterilizing agents. It has been an enormous, time consuming and hazardous task, and we are hugely grateful to the folks at Service Master who so professionally handled this emergency.
So now the real work begins. We are actively seeking funds to hire curatorial experts to assess the collection as it returns piece by piece to the building — this time, storing the fragile paper collection upstairs. We will be applying for CPC funds to complete the climate control, to add additional anti-humidity measures in the basement, and to fund continuing curatorial work. We will be looking for financial help and guidance in order to re-envision the public space, with the intention of digitizing the majority of our collection for the widest possible educational use. And of course, we hope for and welcome the widest possible participation from our membership, old and new.
Yes, it’s a daunting task, but it can be done, and it will be done.
And so we begin this Heritage Day. Come and say hello, and introduce yourself if we haven’t met already. And send your friends — with their checkbooks! We won’t be hard to miss — I’ll be the guy with the huge red 20’s megaphone hawking for new members.