On Friday, the affiliates will host their first awards ceremony to honor volunteer-run and small and mid-size heritage groups, those places that excite sometimes-obscure passions and fulfill them for a fortunate few.
"Many deal with significant challenges - challenges of funding, challenges of marketing, of volunteers, challenges of membership and collections," said Prudence Haines, who runs History Affiliates.
"The purpose is to help these organizations sustain themselves and to help them remain in their communities."
The debut crop of honorees includes the Wharton Esherick Museum for its exhibition "Poplar Culture: The Celebration of a Tree"; the Concord Township Historical Society for "Legacies and Lessons: Western Delaware County Presents the Civil War at 150"; the Friends of the Japanese House and Garden for the historic preservation of Sakura Pavilion in Fairmount Park; and Bartram's Garden for its Community Farm and Food Resource Center.
A pair of volunteers also will be honored: Louis M. Iatarola of the Historical Society of Tacony and Nancy Roan of Goschenhoppen Historians.
Two for-profits, Bank of America and History Making Productions, will get a nod for assistance they have provided to historical groups.
Paul Eisenhauer, curator of the Wharton Esherick "Poplar Culture" show, said the museum, in Malvern, has grown this year to three full-time staff members (assisted by 23 volunteers) and has drawn about 5,000 visitors annually, although the poplar show bumped attendance by several hundred.
Esherick (1887-1970), Eisenhauer said, is central to 20th-century American design, and the award-winning show presented work by 40 contemporary woodworkers honoring Esherick with pieces crafted from a single tulip poplar that stood outside Esherick's studio door.
"It's our homage," said Eisenhauer, "to that continuity between past and present."
History Affiliates, he said, is the kind of organization that benefits even relatively stable places like the Esherick Museum.
"As government support for the arts has been drying up, you need help," he said. "Not just financial [help], but a clearinghouse, a resource, a place to go to find others in the same boat with the same issues."
Running a little museum, he added, "can be a lonely life."
Nancy Roan is a 47-year veteran of Goschenhoppen Historians, a volunteer group dedicated to preserving the Pennsylvania Dutch culture of the Upper Perkiomen Creek region of Montgomery and Berks Counties, and finds her "heritage" work anything but lonely.
Her organization, which restored and has maintained the 1736 Antes Plantation house in Upper Frederick, runs folk festivals, documents quilts, hosts great Pennsylvania Dutch feasts, runs tours, and has proved endlessly fascinating to Roan, now 79.
"Right now, I'm making ornaments for Christmas," she said. "I do anything. I cook in the fireplace. There is an enormous 10-foot fireplace. We do dinners, cooking. That's how I keep busy.
"I don't do any housework."
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