By Rick Cawley
For the Review
The Roxborough Manayunk Wissahickon Historical Society has always had one eye looking in the rearview mirror, preserving the legacy of our community’s past. At the same time, it is keeping another eye on the future as it looks to create user-friendly ways to make it easier to access the rich heritage that links us to our past. As more and more people develop a yen to connect to their ancestral ties and research their family history, the RMWHS is eager to ride side-by-side with them along their journey.
At present, the myriad of artifacts and documents that the RMWHS meticulously safeguards, are housed in a cubbyhole of a room at the Roxborough Library. The society, which is run by volunteers, has around 80 members with the majority of their operating budget coming from member dues.
They generally meet every other month at the Journey’s Way, but due to the pandemic concerns, have had to cancel the last 4 meetings which usually feature guest speakers with diverse historical backgrounds.
The gatekeepers of the society are the holy trinity of 96 yr. old dynamo Sylvia Myers, President Lynn Trimborn, and new kid on the block, seasoned archivist Georgie Gould. Myers is sort of like the Queen Mother of the organization. Her husband and avid historian, Nick, was a prolific writer and had been the nuts and bolts of the enterprise for years and years before his passing in 2001.
Nick authored countless articles that documented a slew of far-ranging topics that represented the backbone of early life in the Roxborough area. Sylvia, who comes from a deep love of horticulture throughout her adult life, took over the reins from Nick and his been a guiding light ever since.
Native of the 21st Ward and society president Lynn Trimborn refers to Myers as the “governor of Roxborough” because of her seemingly unlimited resources and connections to the people, places, and things that are the fabric of our community. Myers says, “we have a treasure here. It’s little, but we have a lot of stuff.”
Trimborn shares a passion with Myers and Gould for preserving the art and culture of the 21st Ward and finding ways to educate the public about our bygone days. She also possesses top-notch people skills which make her ideal for conducting meetings, organizing efforts to build membership, and delegating the society’s mission.
Archivist Georgie Gould, who is a bit of a super sleuth when it comes to tracing family lineage, is the unrelenting force that will most likely push the organization into the 21st Century and beyond. She envisions the society providing digital access to the bulk of materials that are now contained in “old school” formats. Armed with high-tech transfer tools and a strong background in genealogy and impeccable research capability, Gould is in the painstaking process of converting the thousands of documents, census records, maps, family timelines, etc. into an interactive design scheme that is representative of the internet age.
Although the Covid gloom has slowed the process, the game plan down the road would be to have citizens utilizing their computers to retrieve information on local archival material through the society’s database. Obviously, with activities being somewhat curtailed at the present, this changeover won’t happen overnight.
But the wheels are turning on these projects and a return to normalcy will happen eventually. The RMWHS will be ready and able to share their great wealth of local lore in bigger and better ways.
Gould sums up her perspective on dealing with the uncertainties and recent setbacks by saying that “we hope you haven’t forgotten about us because we haven’t forgotten about you.”
The RMWHS can be contacted at email@example.com.