The Shiloh Museum of Ozark History tries to leave no question unanswered -- and they come in at a daunting rate. The more complicated ones -- requests for research into building or home histories, family genealogy, obituaries, cemetery and land patent locations -- number 350 to 400 a year. And then, there are the others, some of which require Kleenex.
"An elderly lady came in looking for a photo of her grandfather," Marie Demeroukas, the museum's research librarian, begins to enumerate. "We only had one image, and it was bad -- dark, blurry -- you could barely make out the man's face. When I showed it to her, she burst into tears. She had never seen her grandfather before."
NWA History Resource Fair
WHEN — 1-4:30 p.m. Saturday
WHERE — Shiloh Museum of Ozark History in Springdale
COST — Free
INFO — 750-8165
BONUS — Participants include Bella Vista Historical Museum, Benton County Cemetery Preservation Group, Boone County Heritage Museum, Carroll County Historical & Genealogical Society, Cherokee Heritage Center, Eureka Springs Historical Museum, Historic Cane Hill Museum, Lowell Historical Museum & Rogers Historical Museum.
Another incident involved a woman looking for information about her dad, who died when she was a baby.
"During the course of a search by research specialist Rachel Whitaker, she came across the woman's half-brother, whom she had never known," Demeroukas says. "After getting the brother's contact information, she came in to hug Rachel, tears in her eyes."
And some, of course, are funnier -- the would-be ghost hunters, the lost researchers who think the museum is in Appalachia, and questions about the care and feeding of a baby bird.
"Our unofficial motto at the museum: 'We are all things to all people,'" Demeroukas says.
But it occurred to Demeroukas and Whitaker that bringing together a couple of dozen of the "museums, historical and genealogical societies, archives and preservation groups representing the region's history, family genealogy, archaeology, Native Americans, cemeteries, historic buildings, and the like" might be useful -- "like a Comic-Con for history geeks," as Whitaker put it. The first-ever Northwest Arkansas History Resource Fair will be Saturday, and as of today, 23 organizations have signed up. Among them is the Madison County Genealogical and Historical Society, represented by Joy Russell, whose interest in the past started many years ago.
"When I was a teenager, my Granny Abbie talked to me a lot about her family," she remembers. "She always said that she would like to know more about the older generations. My first project was to research her genealogy of the Burnett and Smith families."
Then Russell discovered "how much history our local area had" and created a place to bring pieces of the past together under one roof at 220 N. Gaskill St. in Huntsville.
"We are staffed by volunteers from Madison County who are familiar with the genealogy and history of our county," Russell says. "Even with so much information available now on the internet, at our library people can use paper copies and books to find information that's not online. We frequently have visitors from other states, and many times we've heard the comment, 'I just can't believe that such a small little office has so much information that I needed to find.'"
Demeroukas says the history fair will be a relaxed event, with no presentations and plenty of materials to take home, free or at a small cost.
"We see it as a great opportunity for the public to connect with the region's history-based organizations, in a 'one-stop shopping' format."
And get their questions answered, of course.
NAN What's Up on 07/13/2018
Print Headline: 'Comic-Con For History Geeks'