What is now only organized chaos will eventually be a tidy timeline of Connellsville history.
By February 2013, the local historical society office at Carnegie Free Library will be transformed into Connellsville Historical Museum, thanks to three grants, staff and volunteers.
“Currently we’re in the beginning stages,” explained Keith Cochran, the Pittsburgh architect hired to design the museum. Cochran has worked on two other Connellsville projects: the remodeling of the library’s reference room (called the Getty Room) and the historical society’s Gibson House building on Patterson Avenue.
Cochran was on hand recently to meet with library director Casey Sirochman, historical society president Karen Hechler and others to discuss the project, which has received $30,000 in grants thus far.
Tidying and organizing
Jill Rifenburg, interim archivist, and Julie Porterfield, volunteer coordinator and museum curator, are in the process of sorting through and separating historical information by subject. Items will be displayed by series and there are many — churches, schools, businesses and industries, to name a few.
Viewing the cluttered room on the library’s second floor, Hechler admitted organization is a major obstacle.
“This stuff hasn’t been really organized in at least 30 years,” she said.
Among the artifacts the historical society has for safekeeping are the personal papers of Connellsville’s founder, Zachariah Connell — some dating back to the late 1700s (Connellsville was incorporated in 1793).
Cochran looks forward to the project.
“This is my third trip to Connellsville,” he said. “I’ll be working closely with these folks to see what will be needed in the renovation.”
A $5,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Fayette County provided a feasibility / design study for the room. Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau granted $20,000 to remodel it. Work is expected to start this fall, according to Sirochman.
She said the project received a Seed Award of $5,000 from The Sprout Fund of Pittsburgh; the cash paid for a volunteer coordinator (Porterfield), a web designer and advertising.
“Founded in 2001, Sprout facilitates (funds) community-led solutions to regional challenges and supports efforts to create a thriving, progressive and culturally diverse region,” Sirochman said.
Over the years, Sprout has invested in hundreds of early-stage community projects.
Porterfield and Sirochman stressed that volunteers are keenly needed for the project. Historical volunteers will help sort, organize and preserve artifacts under Porterfield’s direction. Tasks will include database entry, filing and alphabetizing.
Volunteers also are needed to move artifacts and objects within Carnegie Free Library and to the Gibson House. “Volunteers should be able to easily lift 50 pounds,” Porterfield said. Hours are flexible.
If interested in volunteering for the museum project, contact Porterfield at email@example.com or call 724-628-5640.
To further benefit the project, the historical society will sell some of its office furniture, including a conference table and other tables, filing cabinets and a large metal desk. Visit Carnegie Free Library’s Facebook page for images or call the library at 724-628-1380.
Genealogical workshops are open to the public
In conjunction with organizing historical items belonging to the Carnegie Free Library and Connellsville Historical Society, the library will offer free beginner genealogical sessions one Wednesday each month from 6 to 8 p.m. at the library on South Pittsburgh Street.
Sessions, titled “Who Is Lurking in Your Past? Genealogical Research 101 & Beyond,” will be Aug. 15, Sept. 19 and Oct. 17. Director will be Audrey Whipkey Yozie, past active member of the Fayette County Genealogical Society of PA. Register online at www.carnegiefreelib.org/ or call 724-628-1380.
Written by Laura Szepesi. Read the original story at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.