Sunday, March 9, 2014

Give a little of your time to preserving memories and museums

"Life must be lived forward, but it can only be understood backward," wrote Soren Kierkegaard. 

How will our children understand the stories of those who pioneered and built Canyon County, if those stories are never recorded and shared?

In museums, we experience the past in compelling ways. The Nampa Train Depot Museum and Our Memories Indian Creek Museum in Caldwell are filled with artifacts and histories that help us experience the lives of people who built Canyon County.

And our museums need our help. They need visitors, volunteers and donations.  

We have these wonderful collections of local history right in our backyards, yet often, the visitors who enjoy them are from out-of-town.  So we should check them out—the displays will take us back to an era when life was simpler.  We can “understand life backward” by remembering that clothes were washed on scrub boards and ironed with hot, heavy flat irons—giving us added appreciation for how good the great-grandparents look in old photos! 

No one can enjoy a museum that’s locked, so both museums really need volunteers to keep the museums open for visitors. They have had to cut operating hours drastically.  With more community volunteers, they could handle more group tours and walk-ins.

This is especially true in Caldwell, where numbers of visitors have been dwindling for months. 

Imagine chatting with some of America’s “Greatest Generation” and others who have seen the world change dramatically. We could do this by conducting oral history interviews with local folks. The museums have guidelines, equipment and suggestions for volunteer interviewers to record histories for the museums’ archives.

Another needed service is transcribing oral histories.  “We have the equipment, but we need typists,” says Patty Sweet, a volunteer at Nampa’s Depot Museum. She says they are looking for people of any age to come to the museum and transcribe histories from tapes.

A young volunteer, Eric, says this work requires good listening skills but is fulfilling. Teenagers who need school or senior projects, or Eagle Scout and church-related service projects, might find they enjoy transcribing histories.

Sweet says there’s also a need for “accessioning” artifacts given to the museums. This means that each item becomes part of the museum’s permanent collection and implies that the object will be watched over.  It requires some paperwork—and we all know that paperwork stacks up!

Volunteers are needed to serve in preservation, data entry, library, research, tours, children's lesson planning, educational/ outreach/ speaker programs, greeting, filing, special projects, fundraisers, publicity and more.

The Canyon County Historical Society, which manages these museums, is a volunteer site for the Retired Senior Volunteer Program and welcomes RSVP volunteers.

Finally, the museums can use financial donations to maintain the buildings, and for new computers and software to simplify oral history recording and transcription, and the accessioning process.

Fees to visit the museums are: CCHS Members, free; age five and under, free; youth (6-12),  $1; teens (13-18), $2; adults, $3; seniors  (65 +), $2; family (up to four people), $7. Please call 467-7611 or 936-3003 to schedule tours, to volunteer, or to contribute!