Among the virtual events the Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society has scheduled this year is a Roosevelt School 100th anniversary open house in October. The school is located in Keego Harbor.
WEST BLOOMFIELD — In a “step toward normalcy” during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society has positioned itself to continue to keep history alive for local residents via virtual programming.
At a July board meeting, GWBHS President Gina Gregory brought up the idea, and according to Cory Taylor, who is the society’s office and activities coordinator, the board was “all for it.”
With 2020 programming having already been planned since last year, the society reached out to presenters to inquire if they would be willing to go to a virtual format.
Taylor said they all agreed.
The GWBHS will host some programming via open houses, with West Bloomfield parks helping to host other events.
Programming is accessible via Zoom.
“We had already been working with Zoom for our board meetings and for our one-on-one meetings,” Taylor said. “It just sort of spiraled from there, in a good way. … It kind of all came about pretty quickly over the last month or two, but it’s all worked out pretty well.”
Gregory shared her thoughts about the society’s decision to offer virtual programming.
“I’m very excited to pivot our programming so that we can accommodate the unique circumstances of COVID-19 and offer value to our members in (the) community in a way that’s safe and helps us during this unusual time,” she said. “It’s an interesting process. It helps us utilize the archives that we have in a new way.”
With virtual programming being the current reality, Gregory has begun to try to think ahead.
“Our virtual programming is in place for all of 2020, and we will continue with virtual programming for as long as we need to,” Gregory said. “So at this point, it will extend into 2021, and as soon as we’re able to get back to live events, we’ll look forward to doing so.”
The virtual events offered in September are an Apple Island 50th anniversary of West Bloomfield School District ownership open house and an 1877 history of Oakland County presentation.
The three events scheduled for October are an open house on Roosevelt School’s 100th anniversary, the “Great Black Women of Detroit Presentation” and “History Outdoors: Wayside Exhibits.”
November’s events are on the 19th Amendment and women’s right to vote, and on “D-Day: The Most Important Day in 2,000 Years.”
The last scheduled event of the year is “‘The Night Before Christmas’ Collection Open House” in December.
The open house presentations are expected to last approximately 25-35 minutes, and the others last about an hour.
Viewers can type in questions, and answers will be provided toward the end of each presentation.
Those interested in registering for any event can do so by going to gwbhs.org. Events are listed on the home page.
Open house programming is free for anybody.
Other events are also free, with the exception of a $2 charge for those who aren’t West Bloomfield residents.
Going virtual is not unique to the GWBHS.
“A lot of places like us have had to change and rotate into a virtual setting,” Taylor said. “For us, that’s actually been pretty easy, and it is really exciting to provide history virtually. The best part about our museum and our historical society is talking to people from the community and learning about their history and their stories, and not being able to do that the last few months has been a little odd, so we’re really excited to be able to talk to people again and bring them history, even if it is through our computers.”
Taylor began working for the GWBHS in January of last year, prior to the pandemic.
As exciting as it is to be able to offer virtual programming to the public, she doesn’t want it to be the norm for too long.
“I hope it’s only normal for a short amount of time, because working in the museum industry, even for as little time as I have, it’s very odd not seeing people in person,” Taylor said. “So a virtual program is a great next step to getting back to normal, but I don’t want it to be the new normal forever.”
No matter how successful virtual programming may turn out to be, it’s not likely to prevent some from longing for the good old days.
“We’ve had inquiries about when we’re (going to) re-open, but I think the general consensus is an understanding from our communities that we can’t re-open until it’s safe for everybody,” Taylor said. “We greatly appreciate the communities coming to us virtually.”
For more information, visit gwbhs.org or call (313) 549-3545.