County Historical Society Transitions to Dynamic History Center
The Saratoga County Historical Society at Brookside Museum is reinventing itself as the Saratoga County History Center. It is the intention of the Saratoga County History Roundtable to work closely with the History Center as the new vision takes shape in coming months.
For nearly sixty years, the organization has focused primarily on Brookside Museum (a 1792 summer boarding house in Ballston Spa), catering to local history enthusiasts and genealogy hunters. By October 2019, however, it was clear to the board of trustees that traditional approaches to public history and community engagement would no longer sustain the institution. On the brink of closing, a “Save Brookside” campaign was launched, ultimately raising over $90,000. Nevertheless, the sudden onset of the ferocious Covid-19 pandemic kept the Historical Society in crisis.
A reshuffling of the board of trustees has yielded new, innovative approaches to serving the community and preserving history. Rather than concentrating exclusively on Ballston Spa locals and museum walk-ins, the organization now endeavors to represent all the diverse populations and histories of Saratoga County as a whole through a variety of online and in-person exhibits, programs, and events. Thus, rebranding as the Saratoga County History Center with a vision to “Share history to promote community.”
As Saratoga County’s History Center, “Brookside” will act as the nerve center, clearinghouse, and repository for use throughout the county. It will be a resource not only for local historians, libraries, and governments, but also for those around the globe seeking information about Saratoga County and its environs. It will also be a member-driven organization, reliant upon member dues, donations, and participation. Memberships are being sought throughout the county and beyond. A sizable membership will create a dependable revenue stream and identify stakeholders regardless of location.
SCHC is dedicated to leading a collaboration of all the local and regional historians, public history locations, and historic preservation agencies to celebrate and protect our area’s exciting and epic history. In addition to our close relationship with the Village of Ballston Spa, partnerships with town and county historians, colleges and universities, and state and national parks will be central to our transition strategy. For instance, our new #ExpertsNextDoor series on Zoom and Facebook Live, which connects viewers with a wide variety of local experts, from beer masters to gardeners to published authors. Likewise, long-time educational favorites, such as the “Sheep to Shawl” program, are being digitized for use by teachers everywhere. Upcoming programs and exhibits will emphasize online and virtual media to reach the widest possible audience. Soon, people around the world will be able to learn about, and benefit from, Saratoga’s storied past.
To accompany these dramatic and exciting changes, the History Center’s mission statement has been revised. “The mission of the Saratoga County History Center is to serve as a repository for local and regional histories, to provide innovative educational and public programing, and to instill in our communities a deeper understanding of how the past informs and impacts our present and future.”