SOUTH RIVER –
After more than a year closed, The South River Museum officially reopened on Sept. 5, allowing visitors to finally explore new exhibits and programs.
This year, as communities slowly recover from the compromising effects of COVID-19, millions of people are re-emerging from nationwide shutdowns that closed the doors of countless businesses, schools and public attractions. The South River Historical Museum was no exception.
In response to the pandemic, according to Stephanie Bartz, chair of the Artifacts Committee, the executive board for the South River Historical & Preservation Society decided to cancel programing on March 20, 2020.
Bartz, who joined the society in 1999, said that the pandemic delayed plans to celebrate the 300th anniversary of South River.
“2020 was supposed to be a year of celebration. South River marked its 300th anniversary and there were plans for a series of public events throughout the year. These all had to be cancelled due to the lockdown caused by the pandemic. The first major event was supposed to take place in April 2020. That would have been the opening of the time capsule that’s buried in front of the museum,” Bartz said.
Although the museum initially faced challenges in staying connected with the community, Bartz mentioned that they quickly adapted.
“We also learned that we can be adaptable and come up with new ways to engage with people. The work doesn’t stop even when there’s no in-person interaction with our members and patrons,” Bartz said.
According to Bartz, the museum took initiative and created a YouTube channel, updated and expanded sections of their website, invested in a new catalog system, and created new exhibits in preparation for the day they reopened.
After careful planning and consideration, the decision was made to reopen on Sept. 5. Bartz says virtual and in-person visitors will be accommodated.
“Visitors can expect new and changing exhibits. … We also hope to be offering digital exhibits in the not too distant future so that those who are unable to visit the museum in person can have a smaller scale virtual visit,” Bartz said.
With a gradual return to normalcy on the horizon, Bartz is looking forward to seeing visitors roam the museum again. She also encourages people to archive their own history for future generations.
“I think we’re all just looking forward to being able to have programs and in-person visits to the museum again. We miss that interaction. Local history helps us understand how we got to where we are and who we are as a community. The connections, both familial and relational, between people in South River are amazing. The best way to preserve your own history is to record the stories. … A hundred years from now people will wonder what it was like in South River in 2020 and 2021 just as we wonder what it was like here during the 1918 influenza epidemic. Save and organize your photographs and be sure to record the dates, places, and the names that go with the faces in the photos,” Bartz said.