HOOSICK FALLS, N.Y. -- There's a lot of history at the Hoosick Township Historical Society's Louis Miller Museum -- beginning with the building, which belonged to the Miller family from 1924 to when it was gifted to the society in 1981.
"There's a lot of history here," Phil Leonard, Hoosick's town historian and historical society treasurer, said. "It's just getting people to come."
"We have more on display than most museums because everything is (out and on) display. ... there are very few blank wall spaces." The museum, which underwent renovations in 2007 and passed its 30th anniversary last August, contains 10 rooms chock-full of items of historical significance for the town of Hoosick and its residents.
And its proprietors, including museum director Charles Filkins, are full of stories to tell. Filkins gives the standard tour in about two hours, which can be compressed if you're willing to shortchange some history.
An annual membership drive earlier this year for the historical society netted about 215 members, who receive a monthly newsletter for their support. Now available through email, the April edition of the newsletter includes information about railroad postal workers; the origins of the name Hoosick "Falls;" and a short biography of Rev. Edward Dudley Tibbits, the founder of Hoosac School.
The society also releases a history booklet each November, which are sold at local stores and "make great Christmas gifts.
Leonard and Filkins reported donations of historical memorabilia have picked up in recent years -- and they'll take it all as long as it relates to Hoosick -- but the museum itself could use more traffic. "We want the public to want history," said Leonard during a quick tour last week.
Most of the two- to three-hundred annual visitors to the museum are students from area schools who come in class trips each June. Genealogical searches and requests make up another portion of traffic. Filkins spends many days organizing local families' trees.
"People that come to see us, they're overwhelmed with the amount of information we can give them, quickly," said Leonard.
An archival room at the museum is filled with binders of information detailing local families, organizations, industries, schools, politics, even parades: the results of an initially grant-funded project, still ongoing.
The museum's first floor contains a period-correct Victorian parlor and 1950s-era kitchen; a special exhibit room with some of the 125 (and counting) historical display boards created by Leonard, each chronicling some particular vein of town history; and exhibits of notable past residents like Edith Craig Reynolds, Walter A. Woods, and Anna Mary Robertson Moses. Better known as Grandma Moses, the original dress she wore to the White House on the occasion of her 100th birthday in 1960, captured on the covers of Time and Life, is on display.
The second floor includes a room of wedding gowns, evening wear, and other clothing from the late 1800s and early 1900s; a "Hall of Fame" room with memorabilia of famous locals like big band singers Bob and Ray Eberle and ballerina Harriet Hoctor; and a children's room with early examples of toys, skates, dolls, and clothes.
Another military room contains artifacts stretching from the Battle of Bennington to later 21st century conflicts. "A lot of people served in this area," said Leonard. "These are the people who were in the armory."
The Louis Miller Museum is located at 166 Main St. in Hoosick Falls. Hours of operation are each Monday and Tuesday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., and other times by appointment.
The historical society is a not-for-profit organization established in 1974 with the mission of preserving and generating interest in local history within the Town of Hoosick and Hoosick Falls. Membership is open to anyone age 14 years or older. The society's annual meeting is scheduled for this Wednesday, April 10.
For more information, stop by the museum or visit www.hoosickhistory.com. Or call 518-686-4682.
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