by Amy Curry, Executive Director
November 14, 2023
The ironic part of my job as the executive director of a county historical society is that despite the name of our organization, and that my “corner office” is within one of NJ’s best preserved house museums, my position is often less about “doing” history and more about making the “doing” possible. Leading a small, but growing, nonprofit, I work to create the vision for our forward movement and development, secure the funds to execute it, and find new ways for the organization to better realize its mission.
Increasingly with each year, the better part of many days are filled with grant applications (15 and counting for 2023), monopolizing a significant amount of time and energy. Our most recent grant awards to restore Acorn Hall’s front yard fence and install period-appropriate landscape lighting, complete more than decade long endeavor to restore the Hall, its carriage house, and 6-acre property to its historically accurate 1860-1880 aesthetic. As Acorn Hall is the most outwardly apparent way MCHS illustrates its mission, our commitment to its stewardship and restoration not only creates a showpiece exhibition of local history, it also ensures that our headquarters, inside and out, remains one of the best-preserved historic house museums in New Jersey.
The command center for MCHS, I coordinate the efforts of our staff, board of trustees, and local history colleagues to ensure that we’re embodying our mission, preserving and promoting Morris County’s history, to the fullest. I also serve as our human resources department, benefits administrator, bookkeeper, and point of contact for all 21 of our grantors and various professional teams. From gutter cleaning to social media initiatives to budgeting to strategic and long-range plans, there’s a near endless list of disparate tasks required to keep a small non-profit running like clockwork.
As I’ve worked to guide MCHS to more actively express its mission, we’ve assumed a leadership role within the local history community. Reaching beyond Acorn Hall, I’ve worked closely with the town-based historical groups in the planning of their annual Pathways of History tour and with the area’s professional history organizations ahead of 250th celebrations. Additionally, this year, I began developing partnerships and organizing efforts toward a county-wide survey of African American history and historic sites. A fledgling project, a great deal of my time is spent making contacts and meeting with researchers, applying for additional grants to fund the initiative, planning related events, and working with preservation and subject-matter specialists.
A lot has changed at 68 Morris Avenue since that cold January 2012 morning when I arrived for my first day in the office; even so much of my position has changed and evolved. Still significant constants remain: no two days are ever the same, the unexpected should always be anticipated, and, at the ring of the doorbell or phone, a well-planned day can be completely thrown to the wind.