Fallout from museum decision continues

The Bethany Beach Cultural and Historical Affairs Committee (CHAC) convened Monday, June 12, at the Bethany Beach town hall. Committee members Jane Fowler, Jean Wode, Margaret Young, Jeri Walsh, Gloria Farrar and Vice-Mayor/CHAC Chairwoman Carol Olmstead were all present.

Discussion at the meeting revolved around updates of museum progress, an oral history project for the museum, and a historical marker program within the town limits of Bethany Beach.

Young raised concerns that the Bethany Beach Historical Association (BBHA), formerly responsible for the caretaking of the museum, was appearing to be forcibly disbanded and replaced by CHAC. The Bethany Beach Town Council voted at their May meeting to remove the BBHA as the operating authority for the museum, in favor of CHAC, also asking for the turning over of funds held by the BBHA.

However, Olmstead said that the Historical Association was in no way being forced to disband. She did recognize the change of hands taking place regarding the museum responsibilities, though.

The Historical Association was established in 1976 by Bell Montinerry, and revitalized in 1996. In 1997, the Town Council appointed the Historical Association to oversee museum activities. In 2004 the council formed CHAC, with similar responsibilities, but they never formally addressed the fate of the BBHA or any power-sharing arrangement.

The two groups have operated semi-independently ever since, with the BBHA supplying docents and organizing some museum displays, while CHAC has focused most recently on the museum renovations in the new location inside town hall and updating exhibits to go in that new location.

Several of those new additions for the museum were discussed as well on June 12.

Three albums were recently purchased to aid in the display of historical newspaper clippings and other town documents of interest. Patrons will soon be able to view these at the museum.

In the wake of the vote placing operational authority for the museum in the hands of CHAC, instead of with BBHA members who had largely been responsible for staffing it with docents, suggestions were made that the museum be open only on weekdays this summer. But no conclusions were reached.

An oral history of Bethany is in the works as well. Committee members said many of Bethany’s elder citizens will be asked to recount their knowledge of Bethany history for a recording that will eventually be available at the museum.

Historical markers, denoting places of interest, will also soon make it easier to denote the locations of the older landmarks in Bethany.