Margate Historical Society President Frank Tiemann used to be worried about the fate of the city's artifacts. Tiemann, 77, has been the president of the Historic Society since he helped create it in 1998. He said no one else seems to want his role.
So when the the Margate Historical Society merged as a nonprofit with the Margate Public Library last year, now called the Margate Library and Historical Society Alliance Inc., Tiemann saw it as a huge relief.
"Otherwise, we don't know who would be running the museum after we're gone or what they would do with the stuff," said Tiemann, who has collected most of the city's historical artifacts himself. "Under the control of the city, it's much safer. It's where it belongs."
The merging of municipality libraries and historical societies has become a trend in several local communities, including Margate, Atlantic City, Ventnor and Avalon. It is seen as a way to ensure the preservation of the past.
"It's a win-win situation," said Norman Gluckman, director of the Avalon Free Public Library, which merged with its city's Historical Society in 2007 to jointly oversee the Avalon Historical Center. "Now, the Historical Society can take what funds it has and focus on its mission, and the library benefits from giving our patrons better access to local history and the ability to find it all at one place."
The Avalon Library moved its local and state history publications from the library to the Avalon Historical Center, he said.
Maureen Franks, director of the Atlantic City Free Public Library, said the library was entrusted to oversee the Atlantic City Historical Museum Board last August, which was a natural takeover for the library.
"Our missions are very similar, and we were looking for ways we could work together more closely to promote each other and to tell the stories of the community," Franks said. "During the course of our discussions, (the museum board) became interested in the idea of the library taking on a more active role in its museum."
The museum board since has been disestablished, but the library still calls on its former members for historical expertise.
Jeff McGranahan, the director of the Ocean City Historical Museum located with the Ocean City Free Public Library inside of the city-owned Ocean City Community Center, said although the two are separate nonprofit entities, the museum benefits from its proximity to the library.
"The library is a big part of the funding of this building, and we're the beneficiaries of that," McGranahan said. "They allow us use of their facilities and multipurpose rooms to help us with our programming, which is a big part of what we do."
He said both boards recently had a series of "high-level conversations" about joining, but the decision was against a merger.
"The board of directors really have a passion for Ocean City history, so they wanted to maintain the hands-on management, as opposed to a complete takeover," McGranahan said.
However, he said he realizes Ocean City has the rare fortune of being able to do that.
"The city likes what we're doing here in the museum, and it finds it's a worthwhile endeavor to devote this much space to the history of the community (about 5,000 square feet)," McGranahan said.
"But in, say, Atlantic City, the organization realized they were all aging, and there likely wasn't going to be a generation of directors to run the museum," he said. "So, they were looking for a partner to kind of take over the management of the museum, and the library stepped in."
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