Event to plug holes in Whitehall’s past

History-EventBy Derek Liebig

Robin Mannell wants to preserve Whitehall’s history before it’s too late.

A researcher for the Historical Society of the Whitehall Research Library, Mannell is one of several volunteers who are coordinating a special event this weekend aimed at plugging holes in Whitehall’s annals.

Current and former residents, history buffs, the curious, and those with something to share are invited to the Whitehall Municipal Center from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 19.

The organization is seeking help identifying people and places in its photography collection.

“We have numerous group photos, but who are they?” Mannell said. “We’re hoping someone may recognize a relative.”

There are an unknown amount of photographs in the organization’s collection that simply can’t be identified by volunteers. Some have been found in homes and donated to the library, others were identified as being in Whitehall but don’t include any other information. Others have been in the collection for years and outdate volunteers.

And that’s the concern, Mannell said. As the photographs get older, so do the people who may be able to identify what’s in the pictures.

“It’s imperative we do this now before we lose the people who have the capabilities to do it. If we don’t do anything we are going to lose our history,” she said.

During the event, the photos will be laid out on tables and folks will be able to look at the pictures and see if they can identify the people and places that are pictured.

Although most of the photos are from the 20th century, some date back to the mid 1800s while others are less than a decade old.

“It’s not just old photos. We also have photos of kids who went thru programs at the library that we don’t have names for,” Mannell said.

But filling in the gaps is only one part of an event that volunteers hope will expand and preserve the community’s history.

Members of the community are encouraged to bring their own photos and share them with the research library. Volunteers will scan and copy photographs on site and return them to owners the day of the event.

Photographs can be of family members, events, sports teams, civic organizations; anything that in some way chronicles the history of Whitehall.

“Help us out and help out the people who come in to do research,” Mannell said.

Volunteers will also use the event as an opportunity to promote its oral history program. Mannell said the organization would like to record conversations with the community’s older citizens regarding life in Whitehall.

“We’re losing our history rapidly,” Mannell said. “We’d love to record stories of people who worked on the railroad on or on the canal or even in the silk mill and the early timber and lumber industry.”

Mannell said local residents would be surprised to discover the records in the library’s collection.

There are town and village censuses that predate the Civil War, newspapers from the 19th century, scrapbooks that date to the early 1800s, school records, election poll books, diaries, deeds, church records and family histories.

“I’m not sure if people know just what is available here,” Mannell said.

During the event, guests will have access to materials and forms they can use to document their genealogy and researchers will provide tips on the proper way to preserve old photographs.

There will also be books and CDs of historical photos available for purchase.

If the event is successful, those CDs may have a few more pictures in the future.

“It would be wonderful to identify everything,” Mannell said.

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