Historical groups adapt during pandemic

Some in-person programs to return

After having to close their doors in March due to the coronavirus pandemic and cancel programming, local historical societies have been and will continue to offer online programs for children and adults.

They also are planning to return to some in-person programs and also open historic buildings once again to the public this summer.

Officials from historical societies in Mahoning and Trumbull counties have found that people were tuning in to the online programs — including those who no longer live in the area. Plans are to continue with online offerngs but also begin to open doors for other events and programs.


Meghan Reed, Trumbull County Historical Society director, said it started online virtual programming in March and will begin returning to in-person programming starting in late July.

“We had shifted our walking tours to online and also our free Sunday speaker series. We weren’t sure what to expect, but we did get many people who watched,” Reed said.

Reed said since moving programs and speakers online the group has received more participants — noting that many former Warren residents are watching the programs online.

“We were surprised at first with all the people who signed up and watched online. There are people who grew up here who want to have that connection with Warren and this was one way they could do that,” she said.

She said when programs begin in-person, plans are to also continue to offer programs virtually.

The first in-person event will be a downtown Warren architectural walking tour on July 25. The first in-person Sunday speaker series will return the first Sunday in August and also be shown online.

“We will wait and see how the in-person works. I know there are some people who are not comfortable about coming to an event in person if there are many people there — but there are others who want to be able to get out and return to the events,” Reed said.

Another project being worked on by the historical society is an online Trumbull County encyclopedia of local people, businesses and organization.

Reed said the encyclopedia will include a directory of people and businesses (historic and current). The organization is relying on volunteers to submit entries. Eight Trumbull County volunteers now are working on the project.

Reed said 80 entries have been received since starting the online encyclopedia.

Cindee Mines of the Champion Historical Society said she has watched the online programs of various historical societies including a series geared to school-age children by Trumbull County Historical Society.

“I loved the History at Home programs geared towards grade 3-8. They were very informative and simple enough for even the younger children but with enough information for the older grades and adults. I sent it to all my grandchildren and other family and friends in other states so they were able to learn from them also.

“I had some responses that they didn’t know Warren had so much history — this from family that had grown up here,” Mines said.

She also liked the speaker series because she could send it to family and friends who might not be in town to attend a walking tour or program.

“I was in South Carolina due to a family matter and was able to see one of the programs. And I believe all the programs have had very good attendance. Plus they are still available on the TCHS’ new website,” Mine said.

Christine Novicky, president of Vienna Historical Society, said while it has not done online programs the society has been putting more Facebook posts and emails out there to engage audiences with current projects.

“Mostly been emailing old school time photos and trying to get folks to identify who is who. … Had a big post about the tornado of 1947 that happened in June,” she wrote in an email.

Novicky said the monthly speakers series on the fourth Tuesday of the month is being lined up for fall after being postponed in the spring.

She has been busy updating and adding entries to Viennapedia. The latest new topics are listed on the front page: http://viennapedia.viennahistory.org/

She said a quarantine project she has been working on for the society is using the findagrave.com website and app to add photos and GPS coordinates of headstones in the Vienna Center Cemetery.

“This is important for folks working on their genealogy. Oftentimes no one remembers birth and death dates and these may be found on tombstones,” Novicky said.

Novicky said she wants to promote this to other societies as a project they could undertake, especially in historical cemeteries. “It is a very valuable tool for future generations.’


Bill Lawson, Mahoning Valley Historical Society executive director, said plans are in place for reopening sites. The Tyler History Center will reopen for limited hours noon to 4 p.m. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday starting July 10. The Arms Family Museum will reopen for the same limited hours per week starting Aug. 7. Reservations for events in the Tyler History Center ballroom are being taken starting in August. Archives resource center on the lower level of Tyler History Center will reopen by appointment only Aug. 7.

Dave Ragan, communications manager for the society, said there has been an increase in online presence since adjustments have been made.

He also said, with the coronavirus receiving worldwide attention, there are plans to announce soon a focused collection effort to record the stories and preserve the artifacts related to the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the Mahoning Valley.

“Ever since our pandemic closure on March 14, MVHS has been implementing a number of initiatives to continue our mission of collecting, preserving, and teaching the history of the people of the Mahoning Valley. There are a myriad of details to address just with reopening our facilities alone. However, we knew early on that we needed to find new ways to keep engaged with our community,” Ragan said.

Lawson said MVHS staff has been working remotely since mid-March and the decision to transition popular programs to an online format was quickly made.

“In addition to those standing programs, we have also worked to create new series which highlight various aspects of MVHS including its local history collection, decorative arts collection, We are looking to adapt several future programs to online and virtual versions in the coming months,” Ragan said.

Traci Manning, MVHS curator of education, said the society has moved its Bites and Bits of History program to an online format with video recordings of presentations traditionally held noon Thursdays. Roslyn Torella’s program, “Lowellville, Ohio: Murders, Mayhem, and More,” will premiere on July 16. The video presentations are available on the MVHS YouTube and Facebook pages.

Manning said the Hands-On-History open house programs have been changed to an online challenge format. She said video challenges and coordinating activities will be posted each Wednesday from July 8 through Aug. 5. Participants will use the activities to create various museum works. Each week, participants are asked to share their creations on various social media platforms with #HistoryAtMyHouse2020.

MVHS has started a new series of time capsule posts. This new online series focuses on various historical topics with short blog style posts and images. The series has explored several topics including the 50th anniversary of the Kent State shootings, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, and the history of Juneteenth.


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