You might think that being in the historic preservation field means that we want all good things - especially architectural and historic good things - to last forever.
Perhaps you wonder how an organization that supports "preservation" would be closing one of its finest architectural structures.
On July 1, 2010, the Campbell-Whittlesey House will cease operations as a museum. A month after that, it's anticipated that the property will be placed on the market.
Campbell-Whittlesey was the impetus for the start of The Landmark Society. It was purchased in 1937 by Helen Ellwanger to save it from destruction. Miss Ellwanger and others formed "The Society for the Preservation of Landmarks in Western New York
How can we sell what so many have put their hearts and souls and pocketbooks into? Are we betraying the trust of the past 73 years?
I don't think we are.
Their goal was to see an architecturally significant structure saved from demolition. At that time, the accepted procedure was to make such a structure into a house museum. But even at the start, their intention to form a historic preservation group, not a museum organization, was clear. They didn't name the group "The C-W House" - the used the term "Landmarks" - plural.
But what about over 60 years of operation as a museum?
Yes - that is a good thing that is coming to an end. There is some sadness attached to this for many of us - myself included.
Why wouldn't there be? It's only natural when a good thing comes to an end. When a vacation is over. When a child leaves home. When a life well-lived ends. When the cherry blossoms fall.
The Japanese celebrate that moment of inevitable change by holding "hanami" - flower viewing parties under the cherry blossoms. They enjoy their beauty, but also acknowledge a belief called "mono no aware." Literally translated this means "sensitivity to things" - an awareness of the ephemeral nature of all things in life. The Japanese believe the cherry blossoms are more beautiful because they last such a very short time.
Of course - you must first recognize the beauty or goodness of something, if you are to celebrate with a gentle sadness its passing.
Please join us on Saturday, June 19th th celebrate the "good thing" of Campbell-Whittlesey serving as a museum for many generations; at 123 South Fitzhugh in historic Corn Hill. We'll be offering complimentary visits between 1 and 3 pm, refreshments, and a chance to share a memory about Campbell-Whittlesey to be saved in our archives. Click here for more details.
Yes - all good things must come to an end.
But it's what comes next that helps us face the changes in our lives.
The end of vacation leads to refreshed body and spirit. The child leaves home to become an adult member of society. The life well-lived leaves a legacy through family and friends. The blossoms yield to the cherries.
Campbell-Whittlesey will continue beyond its function as a museum, its architectural integrity protected by legal covenants. We don't know yet exactly what its new life will be - but our on-going watch will insure that it is cared for, so it may survive to be a part of our cityscape for many years - and generations - to come.
Posted by Director of Museums and Education Cindy Boyer