Where Past Meets Present

RCHS staff at SSS 2018

From The RCHS History Teller: Collections to Gardens

Teresa Nguyen

Teresa Nguyen

Staff photo by Birchwood Studio

By Teresa Nguyen
RCHS History Teller
July, 2018

Gratitude to Our Summer Interns and Staff

We often drive by that stately, symbolic Lincoln Tallman House on the west side of the Rock River, giving it an appreciative glance for its beauty. A thought or two flash through our minds on the history it represents. On the outside, it may seem pretty quiet around there, that perhaps not much is going on at the Rock County Historical Society. It’s such a peaceful campus, nestled on top of a gently sloping hill above the river. Such a Rock County treasure, a large and beautiful estate between Franklin Street, North Jackson and Mineral Point Road.

But, not all is as it seems. In order for RCHS to provide quality and interesting tours, exciting events and exhibits, community outreach, as well as upkeep of the campus, an enormous amount of daily work goes on behind the scenes in those six historical buildings on the grounds.

Constant scheduling and creative ideas go into offering unique and valuable tours in the Lincoln Tallman House and one-room school experiences for area students in the Frances Willard Schoolhouse. Months of preparations and planning go into our Elite Eight events for the community throughout the year like History Makers, Summer Solstice Showcase, Tallman Arts Festival, Sunday Dinner, Christmas with the Tallmans and many other fun and seasonal celebrations.

Just as each beautiful building on this RCHS campus tells its own story, each employee has his or her own story to tell … stories on how history has become a fiber of their own being, on what inspires them to continue and expand the great work of over half a century now at the Rock County Historical Society. Each staff member works on his or her projects, yet there are always collaborations and a necessary thread of cooperation among the group. This evolving tapestry of our community’s history is progressively woven together and presented to the public.

On any given day at RCHS, there is a sense of forward momentum as bustling staff, summer workers, interns and volunteers continue to preserve the past and make history relevant to the present. Our Interim Executive Director, Timothy Maahs, is no exception. He juggles his time running around the community making important business connections, planning with the marketing team, working with the board toward future plans, all while supporting and managing a busy, energetic RCHS staff.

Unbeknownst to the passersby, there is steady work being done in that little Archives building with projects like scanning photos, answering questions from people seeking genealogical information and curating digital collections. Various work out on the grounds beautify the gardens, the RCHS campus and keep up with inevitable ongoing maintenance of these historical buildings. Daily work is being done to document the collections and pieces in the Lincoln-Tallman House.

Additionally, educational programming continues and new exhibits are created for families to enjoy. Social media and marketing are always at the forefront to connect the public with all of our events, rentals and happenings. Happy faces greet our guests and cheerfully answer phones at the front desk in the Helen Jeffris Wood Museum Center. And, of course, as a non-profit relying on the benevolence of generous community donors, the budget numbers and financial records are continually being figured and reviewed.

There are countless other jobs on our “To Do” lists and if we’re lucky, community volunteers help take on numerous tasks that the staff struggles to find time to complete. We are ever-so-grateful to those who donate their time and talents to the Rock County Historical Society.

As the RCHS History Teller, I continue to diligently work on showcasing our community’s oral history. It’s a joy to meet and mingle with new people at local events, collecting their stories and finding interesting folks to interview on my ever-growing list of who’s who. Additionally, I’m keeping up with monthly blogs, like this one, for the RCHS website.

Before we could tell that the sun sneakily sets sooner by the day, I found the chance to sit with each of our summer interns and staff for a brief interview. We’d be remiss to not express our gratitude to those summer workers who have helped RCHS continue to progress, evolve and grow toward our future success. Their skills, hard work and enthusiasm for preserving our history is inspiring and worthy of abundant praise!

Each one of my visits was a delightful pause in my day, as those pleasant face to face interactions fed my soul way more than staring at a computer screen ever could. As English novelist, Philip Pullman, said, “After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”

My questions focused on what drew these fine people to RCHS, their primary duties and their thoughts on what it’s like to work on this beautiful campus. Some of our interns also shared stories about their schooling, future plans and aspirations.

May you enjoy learning about these amazing individuals as much as I did. We would love for you to come and visit our campus or take an interesting tour to enjoy our ongoing work at this lovely gem in the heart of our city!

Alice Luo

Alice Luo

RCHS Summer Intern in Operations/Office

As a History major at Lawrence University, I’ve never worked off campus, so this position at RCHS appealed to me.

I work with Keighton, RCHS Operations Manager, mainly taking inventory on the collections in the Lincoln-Tallman house. The inventory will help us know where the items were placed originally, so that if they are moved around, they can be put back in their appropriate rooms and locations. Most recently, I came up with an idea to put together the Historic Patriotic Exhibit to celebrate the 4th of July and showcase the Independence Day traditions of the Tallman Family and the community in that era.

I like working at RCHS so much! One reason is that in summer, outside of the school year, it gets a kind of lonely on campus with my friends gone. Another reason is that the work is really fun. I enjoy seeing the collections. I like the history behind them and feel that each piece tells a story, it brings history to life.

Everyone here at RCHS is so funny … in a good way. I like being here!

Katrina Dwyer

Katrina (Kat) Dwyer

RCHS Summer Intern in Education and Outreach Programs

The WAICU program is the main reason I heard about this position. I really wanted to do something with museums or archives, as I’m working toward a minor in Museum Studies. I’m going into senior year at Beloit College with a major in Classical Civilizations (Rome, Greece, etc.).

I help Nate Fuller, Education Curator, working with the Education and Outreach programs, like the History Camp and Murder and Mayhem. I really like it when I get to hop in on Nate’s tours and kind of shadow him in the work.

I like the RCHS “History in Focus” theme, the idea of making history relevant. In our classes we are challenged to be relevant with the history. I’m enjoying it so far.

Georgia Armitage

Georgia Armitage

RCHS Summer Intern in Archives

I’m a history major at Beloit College, so the very idea of working at a historical society was appealing. I’ve done a bit of work with archives before at the Newberry Library. I was really excited at the chance to actually be a lot more involved in it.

I work under Kristin Arnold, RCHS Archives Manager, and my main project for this summer is coming up with a workflow so we can scan photographs and make them more available to people. The idea is that after I’m gone, the volunteers will also be able to scan photographs and then we can just look them up in the system rather than having to go through it all. People will be able to find photos that suit their research much more easily.

As part of my job, I really like working with the volunteers. I also like helping people who come into the archives with questions. We had a gentleman the other day from New York whose family had come here in the 1850’s and he was researching his background here.

I love working at RCHS! Everybody is so nice and friendly.

Michael Easton

Michael Easton

Summer Intern in Historical Maintenance and Groundskeeping

Kathy Boguszewski, RCHS Board Member and Volunteer & Intern Coordinator, contacted me after I had volunteered at the Tallman Arts Festival in 2017.

I work with Dave Thompson, RCHS Campus Caretaker. My work includes groundskeeping, work on a retaining wall, pulling weeds, tending to the plants in the gardens, putting in mulch in the flower beds, as well as some indoor work like painting.

My favorite project was probably the retaining wall. It’s been fun, it’s kind of like a big puzzle to try to fit all the rocks together, stacking them and to make it work somehow.

It’s been really nice working at RCHS, I like it around here. I enjoy all the history.

Currently, I’m going to be a senior in high school and I’d like to go to UW-Milwaukee to study architecture.

Elliott Brigham

Elliott Brigham

Summer Intern in Outreach and Social Media

Todd Jacot, Office Manager at RCHS, has always been like a surrogate uncle to me. He’s a close family friend, so he introduced me to the work at RCHS.

History has always been super interesting to me. I did volunteer for Spirits in the Night and at the Sunday Dinner in 2017. Todd had invited me to volunteer for Sunday Dinner, and Kathy Boguszewski had been encouraging people to join RCHS, so it was kind of both of them who brought me into this position.

I help Todd with Social Media and Outreach. I post on Facebook and Instagram, I take photos around campus to help promote tours, and I help out with anything going on around the campus.

Everybody here at RCHS is super friendly, and I feel like I can connect with others more than just as co-workers, but also as friends. I like it here a lot.

Currently, I’m going into junior year of high school at Rock University High School, an alternative charter school. Our academic pace is a bit faster than the traditional high school, so I’m also taking college classes during extra time in the day. I’m enrolled in Blackhawk Technical College for the fall. I’ll be taking Criminal Justice classes with the goal to eventually earn my degree in Forensic Science.

Sarah Lange

Sarah Lange

Summer Work in Curating Digital Collections

I got this position through the Curating Community Digital Collections Grant, helping historical societies, libraries, archives around the state of Wisconsin with their digital preservation and curation of collections. I was really excited about working here. I didn’t know too much about Janesville to begin with, since I’m from Milwaukee.

Right now, I’m stationed in the reading room in Archives. I’m working with the digital files, how things are organized, thinking about how to get things organized in a way to be helpful to all the people who might want to access the files. We’re thinking about long term, too, with digital preservation. It’s important work.

Part of my work is looking at organization and storage as well as keeping multiple copies with different computer servers. I’m looking at curating down the road and possibly partnering with another host site, like Milwaukee Public Library, to make digital files easy to search.

I enjoy working with Kristin Arnold, RCHS Archives Manager, and Georgia Armitage, RCHS Summer Intern. They’re really nice. I love the campus, it’s so beautiful! I got a tour of Archives. There are a lot of great materials and it’s interesting to hear how people are using them.

I’ve been able to meet some of the volunteers and it’s interesting to hear about how people are researching their genealogies. It’s fun to hear questions from visitors about what they are researching.

Mike Heacox

Mike Heacox

Summer Work in Maintenance and Office

I learned of this position through Work Finders through my job, which is a program that finds work for employees who are on Workman’s Comp and Light Duty.

I’ve been helping the Campus Caretaker, Dave Thompson. We’ve been doing yard work and whatever I can do inside of my physical restrictions and limitations.

One of my favorite projects was when we hung the new red, white and blue buntings on the Lincoln-Tallman House. That was pretty cool. Another favorite project was when we worked on restoring the hardwood floor in the entryway of the Lincoln-Tallman House. We sanded it down and Dave stained and varnished it. It was covered with some cheap vinyl, so we cleaned it up and exposed it. It’s a beautiful deep cherry wood.

It’s been interesting work here at RHCS. I’m not a big history person. It’s been interesting to see the things and events going on here and how it all works.
I will be working here until the doctor says I’m ready to be back at my previous work.

After I’m gone, I’d like to come back and visit. I told Dave we’ll see what happens. I would like to volunteer for the Tallman Arts Festival. It depends on my hours at work.

Val Wyman

Val Wyman

Summer Work in Gardens & Landscaping

Being a West Sider, all my life I have often wandered the grounds of the Rock County Historical Society around the Lincoln Tallman House. I’ve attended several Tallman Arts Festivals and have always been interested in the gardens and their care.

After an interview in 2017, I began working as a volunteer with Dave Thompson, RCHS Campus Caretaker. We have merged together and gone forth.

There are several perennials on the Rock County Historical Society campus that date back to the Victorian-era gardens. Several of the perennials planted were once used for homeopathic health uses. The Carriage Porch was my first open garden at the Rock County Historical Society. It is my favorite spot.

It’s an honor to plant at RCHS and around the Lincoln Tallman House. I believe in order to work anywhere, you need to like what you do. Having a very giving staff at RCHS makes everything go smoothly. I love being a part of the team now and enjoy helping to project the direction of the historical society. My job has room for a lot of ideas on color and design. The staff at RCHS have been receptive to my new ideas.

Having my husband’s beautiful mason talents has added so much to the grounds, as well, and will enhance the campus for years. I’m pleased to have him volunteering and working there with me.

I hope in the future I can continue to enrich the campus with more horticulture plants, trees and shrubs from the era of the Tallman family. I’d like to eventually have a number of volunteers for the garden. I think I’ll call it The Gutsy Sassy Garden Group!

My philosophy is this: If you plant a flower and it blooms, that’s how the world shines on you.