Hidden History: Chemung County

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Winston Churchill famously said, “Those who do not learn history, are doomed to repeat it.”

Well, we have no excuse in Chemung County, where the local historical society is committed to saving and telling our area’s stories.

Each week, 18 News Today anchors Elizabeth Worthington and Jordan Brown will meet with a historian or a curator from the Chemung County Historical Society to highlight a piece of history.

Bruce Whitmarsh, the society’s director, said his favorite part of working at the museum is hearing families tell children and grandchildren, “that’s how it was when I was a kid” because it provides a new perspective for younger people, and allows the different generations to connect and understand each other.

At the end of the day, we’re all people. 

“Whether it’s George Washington or Abraham Lincoln or today, we’re all human beings and we all have the same challenges, emotions,” Whitmarsh said.

Whitmarsh wants visitors to the museum to not only learn from, enjoy, and experience the stories of the county, he also wants them to share their own stories.

“We’re the place that holds and collects them but they’re your stories,” Whitmarsh said. “They’re stories that belong to the community. We take that very seriously.”

We asked Whitmarsh what his favorite story is from the museum.

“Chemung County comes from a Native American word – Chemung meaning place of the big horn – the big horn actually refers to mastadon tusks that the native tribes found as they sort of eroded in river banks, that sort of thing,” Whitmarsh said. “We have one. It’s the thing that visitors here see over and over again and say – oh I remember that. And we still have one here, it’s still on display. That’s probably my favorite piece of the collection.”

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