Audrey Sizelove was program presenter at the Juniata County Historical Society (JCHS) fall dinner program, Sept 25 at Walker Grange, Mexico. She joined the Board of Directors in 2000 and has served as secretary, Juniata Jottings newsletter editor, Vice-President, and has been President since 2010.
She presented: “The Historical Society at a Crossroads: Our Collection, Historic Properties, and the Dilemma of the Tuscarora Academy”. This highlighted extensive research items housed at the Archives Room and reviewed the annual maintenance costs for the four properties the Society owns: Glebe Cemetery, Industrial Park Road, Mifflintown; Veterans Memorial and Patterson Monument, Mexico; Pomeroy-Academia Covered Bridge, Academia; and the Baptist Church and Cemetery, Licking Creek.
In addition, she discussed properties we do not own, but maintain. This includes the Tuscarora Academy which is owned by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and sits on a small acreage plot. The JCHS operates the building as a museum to house artifacts and absorbs routine annual maintenance costs of about $3,600 for things like mowing and heating — already nearly 20% of the Society’s $20,000 annual operating budget. The JCHS no longer receives any annual funding for the Academy from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) but the Commonwealth is still responsible for major problems. For example, a current project the Commonwealth is paying for, is the repair of windows and the belfry, almost $47,000.
She presented to members and attendees the dilemma of the TuscaroraAcademy. The JCHS has been told by PHMC that the Society may be asked to assume ownership of the building this fiscal year. “That the Academy is an important part of JuniataCounty’s history and deserves to be preserved is not in question,” Sizelove said. “The question is, can the funds be raised in order to do so?” Considerations to take into account include potential future costs of replacing an asbestos roof, moisture problems, vintage heaters, possible handicap access requirements, as well as access and parking issues because of the small plot size and fenced bordering properties. Assuming ownership of the building and the potential future costs of up to $500,000, could put the Society under significant financial strain and jeopardize other services offered and the maintenance of properties already owned.
Suggestions on the Academy were given by attendees: selling other properties to reduce costs; spending money to buy a larger building with an accessible location where Archives Room records and TuscaroraAcademyMuseum contents could be combined; or making the Academy a historical property, but without indoor access.
In addition, Sizelove, who will leave the President position in April 2014, asked the membership,“What is the future of the Society to be as we conclude our 82nd year? Should our mission stay the same or change?” And she asked, how would potential ownership of the Academy affect this?
Sizelove stressed that her presentation was the first of many meetings planned to discuss possible options on the TuscaroraAcademy. “Technically, the state hasn’t offered the building to us yet, but we want to be prepared should that happen.” The Society wants input from members and the community.
There is a meeting October 22 between the JCHS and PHMC. Therefore, there will be a community meeting about the Academy, at 3 p.m., Oct 27, at the Lower Presbyterian Church in Academia. For more information, contact the Society at 436-5152 or email@example.com. The Archives Room is open Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.