Nov. 28, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez
The Greater Astoria Historical Society is embarking on a new phase, and is now in search of an alternate space for its collections as it prepares to move out of its longtime home on Broadway—launching a fundraiser with a $20,000 goal at that.
The local historical society, chartered in 1985, announced through its social media channels earlier this week that it must move out of its 35-20 Broadway offices by the end of the year, and has asked the public to pitch in and help during its physical transition and beyond.
While the fundraiser and announcement were sent out just three days ago, the society had anticipated its eventual move-out of the site years ago, and said it was operating on a month-to-month lease there.
The group said, however, that it considers the transition a chance to “reinvent” itself—calling it a move “from grammar school to high school.”
“This is a fantastic opportunity for us to evolve into an organization that can serve our community better,” said Bob Singleton, executive director of the GAHS.
Singleton said the society’s move now is due to the main tenant at the Broadway building, the Quinn and Sons funeral home, relocating to Woodside in September after more than 100 years in Astoria.
But the historical society had been steadily packing and storing away the hundreds of items in its collection, including photos, newspaper clippings, and other memorabilia, for the past three years in preparation for an eventual move.
“When the [landlord] notice hit, 90 to 95 percent of the collection was already catalogued, boxed and ready to go,” Singleton said, noting that the bulk of the curated items are preserved online.
The move, additionally, means the GAHS will have to split up its administrative and collections spaces, a departure from its layout at the Broadway offices, where it held some of its lectures and other events as well as a gallery.
The society, however, has already secured space for its administrative component at 44-02 23rd St. in Long Island City, but is now aiming to settle on a definitive space of about 2,000 square feet in the area to store its collections.
“We have a number of options,” Singleton said. “People have come out and offered space for our stuff.”
The historical society’s $20,000 fundraising campaign is meant to cover the out-of-pocket costs of the move-out, but is also set up to help fund the variety of continuous programming the non-profit puts on year after year, including walking tours, lectures, film screenings, and readings.
The fundraiser, furthermore, will fuel expanded programming and a new, yet-to-be carved vision for bringing Astoria and Long Island City history alive to a greater chunk of the community.
“We are looking how to do things we hadn’t done before,” Singleton said.
New ideas so far include partnering with area buildings and establishments to hold temporary or permanent gallery spaces inside with archived memorabilia, which the society says it has received positive feedback on.
And just as it is asking the public for funds, the society will also ask for ideas on how to improve its programming moving forward.
“When any organization that serves the community has a interest in moving forward, it’s absolutely appropriate to go back to the community and say…‘what are you interested in? what would you be willing to support?’” Singleton said.
The fundraiser has raked in $1,370 as of press time, which the non-profit says is a testament to the strong knit neighborhood it serves and its desire to keep the area’s history intact.
“We’ve all been very pleased and quite flattered,” Singleton said. “This really affirmed for us that Astoria is still a strong community with deep roots.”