The Rochester Historical Society continues to struggle to find its footing. The latest: finances forced the organization out of its space at the Rundel library late last year. The society hadn't paid its rent — $48,000 annually — since early in 2013. (Library officials say they don't intend to pursue the back rent at this time.)
The society is storing part of its collection at the library, says Patrick Malgieri, president of the Historical Society, and part at the Sibley building. Sibley is a good fit, Malgieri says, given its significant role in Rochester's history. And he says he's hopeful that the society may eventually be able to display its collection at Sibley.
The society has moved its office space to 1100 University Avenue.
Rundel became home to the society's collection and offices in 2009 after the organization sold its East Avenue headquarters, the Woodside mansion. The collection includes important resources such as photos, portraits of Rochester residents, letters, and architectural drawings.
Cultural organizations such as the Historical Society face growing pressures, including diminished institutional support, Malgieri says; the days of Kodak writing a big check to support a museum are gone.
And the Historical Society has a particular challenge, he says, in that its collection does not represent the whole of Rochester. Most of the society's approximately 200,000 items come from a particular segment of society, he says: wealthy, white males and their spouses.
"I'm not trying to denigrate the collection," Malgieri says. "They are important in telling the story of Rochester. But they only tell part of the story."
A judicious deaccessioning process, which the society is undergoing, will help manage costs, he says, and allow the society to purchase items that better represent all of Rochester.
Rochester City Council member Carolee Conklin says that part of the society's problem may be duplication. Rochester has several groups that focus on local history, she says, including the Historical Society and the Landmark Society.