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Read an important personal message going into 2024.
A personal message from DCHS Board President
Dear DCHS members, donors, business sponsors and friends,
I want to share my very personal thoughts coming out of my experience of several years as DCHS Board President. I got involved seven years ago as a board member, and nearly four years ago as President, having some understanding of DCHS’s great work. But frankly, I underestimated the value (and volume) of its work — and the challenges it faced. This greater understanding has prompted my wife, Sue, and me to make a significant financial commitment that I’ll expand on later.
In a polarized nation with briefer attention spans, it becomes easy to ignore and discard the past. Advances in technology have blurred fact and fiction, have prioritized artificial intelligence over human intelligence, and, as with most things, have brought tremendous benefits and risks.
From its inception in 1914 the Dutchess County Historical Society has put a priority on preserving not just objects from the past, but stories that reveal human values, conflict and collaboration, the good and bad. We recognize the commitment to the pursuit of historical truth with our annual Helen Wilkinson Award. We believe a source-based, fact and truth-based approach can best inform how we behave in the present, and what we can anticipate in the future. This is among the reasons DCHS publishes the longest-serving historical journal in NY State: the DCHS Yearbook.
Early last year, with the assistance of the New York State Council of Nonprofits and the Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley, the DCHS Board completed a strategic plan which called for three main areas to be addressed:
#1. Find a new physical location.
Find a location at a reasonable cost, that can transform public access for the full community, including youth, the disabled, and those not naturally interested in local history. Thanks to the enormous generosity and accommodation of the Bender family of Rhinebeck, in May of this year DCHS began what has been a six-month careful relocation from Poughkeepsie to Rhinebeck.
#2. Rapidly expand our publishing both digital and print.
Our commitment to creative digital publishing is expanding with the 2023 edition of the DCHS Yearbook, being launched with a much richer digital experience including video, further reading suggestions, and references to other related information.
Our commitment to accessible cost-effective printed publications is seen through our successful pilots with Amazon.com as a source. Whether we are buying printed copies ourselves, or whether customers buy them directly, we will be expanding this offering. Our DCHS Yearbook Encore Edition on Black history (the publication of articles related to the topic since 1914 totaling 200 pages) remains available at the cost of printing to be available in schools, where it is increasingly used.
#3. Get on a firmer financial footing.
Our new online auction has become our single biggest fundraiser with a record $25,000 raised this year. Frankly the public’s general interest in gala dinners, which had been our single biggest fundraiser, has been declining. Our most recent online auction provided twice the income as our last gala dinner.
Dramatically improved program income. Through the generosity of Frank and Jennifer Castella, who hosted our Historic Preservation and Traditional Awards in June, we had a record income from such an event. This helped enormously offset the unexpected and significant relocation costs.
New $200,000 Endowment will yield financial support for Collections management.
While DCHS enjoys annual endowment income of around $11,000 each year from the Denise M. Lawlor Fund of the Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley, we have not been able to rely on regular support of what is arguably our core, but least visible “business:” the management, protection, and presentation of collections.
This prompted my wife Sue and I to give a single gift of $100,000 contingent on DCHS raising an equal match amount by across the two full years of 2023 and 2024. We are working closely with the Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley. Although somewhat distracted by our unanticipated move, we have raised $33,200 in matching funds so we are at $66,400 in total.
We’d love to raise an additional $16,800 by December 31st so we can be at 50% of our full target half-way through the two-year period.
Special thanks for Collections Endowment gifts so far:
Michael & Connie Boden in Memory of Marcia A. Boden $10,000
Newington-Cropsey Foundation $10,000
Lillian Cumming Streetscape Fund at the Rhode Island Foundation $5,000
Peter Van Kleeck $5,200
Eileen & Ben Hayden $2,000
Marcy Wagman $1,000
In addition, DCHS has benefited from a $30,000 grant from Dutchess County which has allowed us to invest in “back end” preservation and front end digital engagement technology which you can see to some degree in photos of our new location at the bottom of this email.
Our new location at 6282 Route 9, Rhinebeck: We can’t say enough about our new 5,000 square feet of archives, libraries and offices. We look forward to being fully open in the New Year. Among the innovations, visitors can search all 13,000 pages of the DCHS Yearbook published since 1914 for specific words through one of three digital kiosks which offer rich, digital experience.
I invite you to strike while the iron is hot! The scale of our commitment now can have a disproportionately positive affect on the future! Please help make this moment a significant, positive and sustainable change in direction for DCHS. Secure online payments can be made by clicking here.
For those of you who have given generously over time and recently, we thank you. For any who might be able to help a little bit more, we are grateful!
Sue and I wish you and your family and friends a safe, healthy and warm holiday season!
DCHS Board President
Our new location, and mailing address:
6282 Route 9, Rhinebeck, NY 12571