The Watertown Historical Society and Museum is in the midst of a membership drive and a new project. The organization has received funding from the Woodward Foundation, the American Savings Bank Foundation, and the Naugatuck Savings Bank Foundation to digitize copies of the Town Times, older Watertown newspapers, and eventually all of the records. Once digitized, the single articles or photos can be searched for in the database and printed.
"We started with the goal of just digitizing the Town Times 1947-2000... but then I decided that we might as well digitize the other earlier Watertown newspapers that we have at the same time," said Curator Steve Bartkus.
The other newspapers that will be digitized include an issue of the Post Boy from the early 1800s, a few issues of the Watertown Journal and the Watertown Post from the late 1800s, a bunch of the Watertown News from the 1910s, and a couple issues of the Watertown Argus from the 1920s. "In the future we hope to continue digitizing more documents in the museum's collections, like newspaper clippings in the files, scrapbooks, journals, books, etc. so that they will be more accessible to the public and more convenient to use because they will be keyword searchable," commented Mr. Bartkus.
R.J. Buckingham, treasurer of the Society said that "a couple of years ago we had a vision to bring the Historical Society to the age of computers."
The society is working on creating a media center that will allow access to the society's inventory, as well as a re-vamped website. The new website will allow anyone to access all the Society's records from home. Patrons of the website can search the inventory by name, access the digitization project, learn about upcoming events at the society, use the library of references, do a genealogy search, take a virtual tour of the museum, or read about the history of Watertown and Oakville.
According to President Jeffrey S. Grenier, "one of the biggest issues is not having an inviting research area."
Also, the museum is not handicap accessible, the record storage is not climate controlled, and there is not enough storage for all the various historical artifacts. Through recent grants and donations, the Historical Society has been able to purchase some acid-free storage sleeves for documents, window coverings that protect artifacts from sunlight damage, a new alarm system, and a fire-proof safe for older documents, such as a book from the 17th century.
"We're very appreciative of current members and grants received to get us to where we are, we are looking to expand our membership to get us to where we want to be to keep history alive," said Mr. Buckingham. The society is looking to increase membership and raise funds in order to update records and storage and offer more services to the public. "We need the townspeople to help us out to serve them," said Mr. Buckingham, "here we are, come use us." The Historical Society and Museum is not only for scholarly research, people can use the society to look up family history, find old school friends in yearbooks and photos, tour the museum, and sit in the old Nova Scotia Schoolhouse.
"It's a labor of love and we're all doing this for the generations to come," said Mr. Buckingham.
To support the Watertown Historical Society, you can become a member, attend a program, volunteer, make a tax-deductible donation, attend a fundraising event, or add to the museum collections. Memberships may be mailed to Watertown Historical Society, Inc. at 22 DeForest Street.
A senior membership is $10, $25 for an individual membership, $50 for a family membership, $100 for a museum sponsor, $250 for a Heminway Circle membership, $500 for a Munson Circle membership, and $1,000 for a corporate sponsor.
The Historical Society and Museum is located on the second floor of the Fire District building on DeForest Street, across the street from the Town Hall. Entrance to the museum is free and is open from 2 to 4 p.m. on Wednesdays and by appointment.
For more information, call 274-2050.
The Historical Society is missing the following issues of the Town Times: January 29, 1976; June 8, 1978; August 31, 1978; February 26, 1981; February 28, 1991; and March 4, 1993. If you have one of these newspapers in your possession, contact the Historical Society at 274-2050 or email@example.com. The issue will be scanned and then returned to your possession.