A new exhibit, “Why Archives Matter,” is now open at the Geneva Historical Society's Prouty-Chew Museum on South Main Street.
Built around a four-panel display developed by the South Central Region of the Documentary Heritage Program, the exhibit explores the meaning, preservation, and use of archives and historical records. Supplemented by many items from the museum's archival collection, “Why Archives Matter” focuses on the importance of archival material in understanding the past.
An archive is a repository for written documents of historical value. Among the best-known examples are the Declaration of Independence, Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and the Constitution. Archives also traditionally include materials such as census records, photographs, maps, manuscripts, family papers, newspapers and letters. These items tell the story of communities, neighborhoods, industries and the people connected with them.
In most archives, these items are held in trust for the community and made available for public use.
Items in the exhibit reflect the variety of documents held at the museum's archive and the many ways in which people use them: 19th-century trade cards for area businesses, scrapbooks chronicling the history of Geneva’s Whale Watch festival, a blueprint of Pulteney Street Cemetery and many photos and family papers.
The exhibit also features images of historic records from archives throughout upstate New York, including photographs, maps and images of a math exercise done by a young William Seward, Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of State.
The Documentary Heritage Program is a New York State records program designed to locate, organize, and make available the state's historical records, which are critical to ensuring the survival of New York's heritage.
“Why Archives Matter” continues through April 1 at the Prouty-Chew Museum; for details, call the office at (315) 789-5151.
Prouty-Chew House, at 543 S. Main St., is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Saturdays. Admission is free, and parking is available on the street or in the Trinity Episcopal Church lot across the street.