(WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com) — All next week, the Erie County Public Library has teamed up with other organizations to promote history preservation.
From May 22 through May 28, the library will hold events and workshops at its branch locations, in the community, and via Zoom. More than 25 participating organizations and individuals will offer more than 30 different programs throughout the week.
“A lot of people have come together to make this event possible… It’s difficult to pick out a single group,” said Courtney Baran, the digital collection librarian for Erie County Public Library.
Baran came up with the idea. She has a background in public history and is involved with much of the history programming at the libraries. Originally, she pitched the idea for HistErie to her manager. She had wanted to hold the event last year, but she didn’t get the chance to.
“This year, I came up with a list of a few things I thought would be fun to do, and I said maybe some of the local historical organizations would want to be involved,” Baran said. Now it’s a week of local history with more than two dozen entities signing on to her idea.
The timing is right. May is Historic Preservation Month. Baran said getting the community invested in preservation is important to the cause.
“Historic preservation is often viewed as being for someone who is in that role, like a historian — but it’s really something the community should be involved in,” Baran said. “This event is aiming to make community history opportunities accessible to people throughout the county.”
Many of the events are free. Those that are not free are offered at a reduced cost.
The week will showcase the history of Fort LeBoeuf, a screening of the film “Saving Places,” the history of amusement parks in western Pennsylvania, information about building preservation, the history of crime and murder in Erie, history how-tos, and local walking tours.
The library is planning to open the vault in its Heritage Room at the Raymond M. Blasco, MD Memorial Library (160 E. Front St. in Erie). Library staff will tour visitors through the vault every 15 minutes starting at 1 p.m. The last tour will end at 3:30 p.m.
“It’s going to be about a 30-minute tour. We’ll go through the Heritage Room and the vault to look at some fun things, like our rare books and fun letters found in the institutional archives,” Baran said. “They’ll also see the process of preserving materials and why that’s important. I’m excited for that myself.”
In addition to library staff, the week will feature events from Mercyhurst University associate professor and department of history chair Dr. Benjamin Scharff, ExpERIEnce Children’s Museum, City of Erie Preservation Planner Chris Kinder, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Erie Art Museum, Warner Theatre, Erie Maritime Museum, secretary of Preservation Erie and history-focused social media influencer Erin Phillips, the Fairview Area Historical Society, Fort LeBoeuf Historical Society, Goodell Gardens & Homestead, Hagen History Center, Historicorps, Hurry Hill Maple Farm, Jefferson Education Society, architect Jeff Kidder, writer and historian Jennifer Sopko, Lawrence Park Historical Society, Lawrence Park Garden Club, Mercyhurst University – Thomas B. Hagen Department of History, Our West Bayfront, Preservation Erie, Presque Isle Lighthouses, WQLN, Yahn Planetarium – Penn State Behrend.
There’s so much happening during HistErie week that it’s difficult to list them all, however the library has an itinerary on its website. Baran noted that some of the programs encourage pre-registration. People can register ahead online. Because there’s so much happening in one week, even Baran is having to choose some events over others.
“The one that I’m most sad that I’m missing is the 101 years of Presque Isle event that’s going to be at the Tom Ridge Center,” Baran said. “I wish I could go to that, but I’m doing my own tour that day.”
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As with past events, the library has more than 400 take-home packets so people can learn about historical preservation at home.