Bellmore Historical Association Seeks Historical Materials

It didn’t take long after the first “informal” meeting of the new Bellmore Historical Association had ended when 12-year-old Mary Catherine Mutone of Bellmore did precisely what members of the new association are hopeful will happen with the development of the new historical agency: she presented members with a piece of Bellmore history no one in Bellmore had seen before.

Along with her uncle Nick D’Alto, Mary Catherine presented Bellmore Memorial Library Director Maureen Garvey and the library’s Story Corps program director Martha DiVittorio with photos of the Egyptian Temple of Dendur at the Metropolitan Museum of Art dating back 2000 years with the name Bel-More inscribed at the top.

Garvey said of the presentation, “It was a cool artifact, and we will find a place for it in our collection.”

 4Shore Road student Mary Catherine Mutone, right, presents “Bellmore in Egypt” binder to Director Maureen Garvey, center.

The Shore Road student said she comes to the library regularly, and is thrilled the library will now house hundreds – if not thousands – of artifacts and documents of Bellmore’s storied history.

Throughout the meeting, members of the new historical association promoted the notion that any residents will be able to contribute to the collection – without even having to give anything over to the association – by coming in and having older photos and documents scanned. Digitizing the materials means being able to hand the originals back.

“If you have older photos, for example, use a magnifying glass to view the backgrounds of where the photos were taken,” said Bill Wilgus a board member of the Chamber of Commerce of the Bellmores, one of three Bellmore entities comprising the Bellmore Historical Assocation.  He said those backgrounds may include Bellmore historical markers no longer in existence today, and those photos could be considered historical.

Bring us your history, he seemed to say; the Bellmore Historical Association will preserve it – for everyone to see.

Historical handoff
The Bellmore Historical Association, a new shared venture among the Chamber of Commerce of the Bellmores, the Bellmore Memorial Library and the North Bellmore Public Library, took over from the Bellmore Historical Society, which disbanded December 31 of last year.

2Members of the Chamber of Commerce of the Bellmores, the Bellmore Memorial Library and the North Bellmore Public Library comprise the new Bellmore Historical Association.

Don Kaestener, a former Bellmore Historical Society member, of the new historical association, remarked that “It’s fabulous.” He remarked that there were no more than 10 members showing up to monthly Bellmore Historical Society meetings, was encouraged to hear the new historical association meetings would instead convene quarterly, and noticed that there were close to 40 in attendance for the inaugural meeting at the Bellmore Memorial Library. “I’m pleasantly surprised because I thought the historical society would die.”

Valerie Skelly, another member of the Bellmore Historical Society who spoke also on behalf of former historical society members Dina Fine and Bill Wood in attendance, said it was “Just delightful to see so many people there.” She said it confirmed her best thoughts that residents are indeed interested in their history.

Further, she appreciates the idea that the historical material will be spread throughout the Bellmore library as well as the North Bellmore Public Library. “It shows great planning to use both libraries” to display the materials.

When asked if historical materials will be separated by districts – such as maintaining Smithville documents and artifacts within the North Bellmore library, and rum-running in the canals and the development of housing tracts over the south Bellmore swamps within the Bellmore library – Martha Verdi, on behalf of the chamber, said there would be no reason to do so.

“Why not have the historical south Bellmore housing developments displayed in photos at the North Bellmore library” as much as display stories of people who built Smithville in the Bellmore library, she said.

Archival Integrity
While the libraries will work toward writing and receiving grants for archivists to come in and further the integrity of the historical collection, library staffers are indeed armed with masters of library science degrees and are trained to handle archives. DiVittorio told those in attendance they are now using rubber gloves to handle items, acid-free envelopes to store them and promoting other acid-free environments to maintain integrity.

For Michael Stanberg of Bellmore, that sounded encouraging. A graduate library student at Queens College who will graduate this year, he works at the Museum of the Living Image and remarked that “Everything she [DiVittorio] said is right out of the archivist’s handbook,” from rubber gloves to keep human oils off the documents and artifacts, to using acid-free papers that will not leach onto delicate documents.

Christine Keller of Bellmore-based Project Stewardship is excited by the possibilities of bringing students in to help set up displays and work with the libraries in any way they can to make the historical collection accessible to the public. Project Stewardship holds classes for many age groups that emphasize responsibility to the environment and the many thoughtful ways to preserve it.

Ken Noon, president of the Bellmore Firemen’s Exempt, said the new association is the “right track, and absolutely needed.” He told Your NewsMag the Firemen’s Exempt Hall had been storing historical artifacts and documents for some time on behalf of the former historical society, and believed the library storing them instead meant the historical materials could now find one safe and sustainable home.

Mac McCluskey, a graduate of the first graduating class of Kennedy High School in 1968, called the new association, with its library components, a “great move. We all want to know where we’ve been,” he said, so it’s important to know and “see” our roots.

For information on the Bellmore Historical Association, call the chamber at 679-1875, the Bellmore Memorial Library at 785-2990, or the North Bellmore Public Library at 785-6260.

– Douglas Finlay

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