Ask any of the current members of the Greate Egg Harbour Historical Society why they think preserving local history is important, and you will get almost the same answer from each of them: because it creates a connection between past and present.
"I would say history is a passion that we all share," said Tamara Lamb, a resident of the Bargaintown section of Egg Harbor Township and the membership and publicity chair of the GEHTHS. "And we want to spark that same passion in others."
The all-volunteer historical society is in the kickoff phase of its 2014 membership drive as it continues to work to preserve the history of Egg Harbor Township.
Lamb, who can trace her roots back to the Adams family, one of the original seven families of Egg Harbor Township, said her interest in local history was first sparked when she compiled a family tree as a teenager.
"It was all so fascinating, like putting together a puzzle with all the pieces making a family history," said Lamb, who remembers growing up in the Farmington section of the township when it was little more than strawberry fields.
With two children of her own, a son in high school and a daughter in college, Lamb said, she always stressed the importance of getting young residents involved in their local history. When residents value local history, it is a way to make sure their family stories are preserved for future generations, she said.
Established in 1979, the GEHTHS has been an active force in the community, and hopes to grow even more by attracting more community members. And it doesn't matter whether residents can trace their family history back to local founding fathers, or they are relatively new to the area - all are welcome.
President June Sheridan, a lifelong township resident and a founding member of the GEHTHS, said attracting membership is very important because the nonprofit organization relies solely on donations and community support. Having an active membership benefits the organization so it can continue to grow and to also support the many educational programs it offers, she said.
The organization has been careful to keep membership costs affordable, at $10 individual or $20 family, she said.
Vice President Lynn Wood, who lives in the English Creek section and has been involved in the historical society since 2009, said she believes the value of membership is far-reaching.
"Historical societies play an important role in a community by protecting and preserving the local historical record," she said. "So in this way, we offer a valuable tool to learning, especially for the younger generation."
Members also get tangible benefits, such as free admission to the speakers series lectures, discounts for events and purchases in the museum store, research assistance and a free subscription to the newsletter.
In 2009, the GEHTHS opened a museum and research library on property granted through the township on West Jersey Avenue. The museum houses an extensive collection of photographs and materials that illustrate the history and development of the township as well as the surrounding area. Printed materials include histories, genealogies, directories, newspapers, family Bibles, letters, photographs and a wide array of information and artifacts illustrating the life, conditions, events and activities of the past as well as the present.
The research library, which is available to the public, contains more than 1,000 archived records and volunteers have helped people from all over the country trace their local family history and genealogy.
The museum is currently open from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, or by appointment.
Besides a monthly lecture series that generally runs from March through October, as well as many other special programs, the GEHTHS supports a Community Garden in partnership with the school-run Catawba project. Located on the the museum grounds, the garden is a service-learning project sponsored by a grant from State Farm's Youth Advisory Board. The historical society's mission for this garden is to educate the public of the importance of sustainable and environmentally responsible gardening as related to past agricultural practices, and also to create a healthy food resource.
Future plans include erecting a new sign fronting the museum property on West Jersey Avenue, and the renovation of a back building on the property that could be used to hold gatherings such as the speaker series, which are currently held at the Egg Harbor Township Community Center. And a new pictorial history book called "A Journey Through Time," compiled by Sheridan and Wood, is close to being published. Sales of the book will benefit the museum, which should help with fundraising efforts.
Another way for township residents to support the historical society is through the commemorative brick program. Each brick can be personalized and will be permanently installed on museum grounds. Each commemorative brick costs $50, or for $75 an annual family membership is included.
Anyone interested in GEHTHS programs or becoming a member can call 609-813-2002, email GEHTHSMuseum@aol.com or see GEHTHS
Contact Lucia C. Drake:
If you go
Upcoming events by the Greate Egg Harbour Historical Society include:
• Annual Recognition Dinner, 6:30 p.m. May 23, Harbor Pines Golf Course. The presenter will be Mike Fitzgibbons, who will share information on the Las Balsas Expedition by raft across the Pacific Ocean. Call 609-646-9633.
• History of Millville Airport, 7 p.m. June 6, Speaker Series presentation, at EHT Community Center. Members free, $2 donation by public.