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Historical Society to Close

by Lynne Belluscio

Now that I have your attention, let me say that the Rochester Historical Society is closing, not the LeRoy Historical Society, however, many historical societies and museums are in dire straights and Rochester is an example of what is happening.  There is something to learn from their demise. The story of the Rochester Historical Society began in the 1860s.  Through the years, it amassed a significant irreplaceable collection.  Their archives were astounding.  Their paintings were phenomenal. It was an organization governed by the old guard Rochester wealthy. It wasn’t an organization that my family felt a part of, and we certainly weren’t members.  They were located in a beautiful 1841 Greek Revival house on East Avenue in Rochester.  I don’t think I had ever been in their house until 20 years ago and was pretty impressed.  In 2008, it became evident that they couldn’t afford the upkeep on the house and they decided to sell it for $450,000 and move the collections to the Rundell Library.  Rent was $48,000 a year, and they couldn’t pay the rent and then in 2014 had to move the collections once again.  Now, they are faced with what to do with all the manuscripts, archives, paintings, furniture and clothing that documents Rochester’s history and no one knows what is going to happen.  They have sold some of the objects and archives that do not pertain to Rochester, but the rest of the collection is protected by New York State law - sort of.  It can still be dispersed and moved from Rochester.

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