New Jersey City Historical Museum invites locals to contribute
Jersey City needed a museum much like the Hoboken Historical Museum – and there is finally one in its early stages. The Jersey City Historical Museum isn’t quite fully formed, but that’s by design – and the new museum has opened its doors to the local community by hosting open houses to help transform the space into a thriving cultural center with hopes of opening for real in the fall. Journal Square residents in particular, the general population of Jersey City, and all of us attached to the Hudson County area are invited to join in the development of this new community-strong institution housed in the pre-era building. revolutionary at what is now 298 Rue de l’Académie. Read on to discover the brand new Jersey City Historical Museum.
A Museum of + for the People
For the past few months, the new Jersey City Historical Museum has welcomed all comers to the iconic Apple Tree House to share stories from the past that need to be told and brainstorm ideas about the role this new cultural center could play. These open house events were attended by academic historians, armchair history enthusiasts, local community boosters and a number of neighbors of the legendary Old House who have lived nearby for many years since its use as Quinn’s Funeral Home. Many neighbors of the Apple Tree House are delighted to visit and see the protected 18th century ceiling stones and beams, as they serve as a reminder of the decades when the building was in active decline, when its survival was in question.
Open house events are in anticipation of a grand opening in early fall. Participants in these community conversations about donuts and coffee are abuzz with ideas and concerns about the stories they want to see represented in a house whose foundation dates back to a time when slaves were in charge of everything. hard work that shaped historical events, but mostly remained anonymous and uncredited.
It takes a village to build a cultural center that is truly representative of the wider community. Jerome Chance, member of the museum’s board of trustees, emphasizes the need to draw oral histories from the lived experiences of long-time residents of the community and to call those who are shaped by the legacy of this history, such as students of PS 11, the Martin Luther King School, which meet at the site of the oldest continuous public school in the Americas. The range of expertise found within the museum’s board of trustees, its extensive advisory teams, volunteer outreach efforts, and programs showcasing local visual and musical artists are part of a very intentional process to to attract the whole village.
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An autumn birth is expected
The new museum’s first exhibit will focus on the days of infamous Jersey City Mayor “Boss” Frank Hague. The exhibition will focus less on The Hague itself and more on the abundant period of his political career when The Hague was mayor from 1917 to 1947. This era saw the construction of the dutch tunnel and Pulaski Skyway; Bing Crosby has performed on stage at the legendary Loew’s Jersey Theatre; Red Scare propaganda shaped local discourse; and local power-holders fought hard to compete for the future they wanted to see.
Along with a myriad of community welcome events spread over the next few months, the museum will open its doors for the Journal Square Community Association’s Bergen Square Day festivities on Saturday, September 10. Their hope is to then open the inaugural exhibition before the start of 2023.
The location of Apple Tree House places the museum in Bergen Square, the site of a Dutch settlement in the 17th century New Netherlands colony. Unsurprisingly, when Dutch history is mentioned by one local history buff, another is quick to mention the vital importance of highlighting Lenni Lenape’s views in every museum project. It is exactly this “yes and” spirit that bodes so well for the future of the Jersey City Historical Museum.
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An interdisciplinary historical experience
The Jersey City Historical Museum is a “with, not for” business, which means the group doing the work will attract new participants with each project. Museum visitors should not come to a museum event simply expecting to receive a lecture. Instead, they should expect to participate in the joyous process of constructing rich historical narratives through music, art, dramatic storytelling, and play.
Speranza Theater Company Artistic Director Heather Wahl is surveying local interest in the dramatic telling of the story. Speranza means “hope” in Italian and the company brings exactly that to those who see sharing history as an exercise in truth. This nonprofit women’s theater has moved into the attic of the new museum, from where they plan to continue their mission of presenting challenging new plays and developing exciting educational content.
Each of the museum’s open days includes a pop-up art exhibit by Jersey City visual artists and a musical concert. The April 30 program featured works by Lucy Rovetto and the music of guitarist Hekuran Beluli, a New Jersey City University student from Albania. The May 21 event shone the spotlight on paintings by JR Nolan with music from MinIo Class, the organist at St. Nicholas Catholic Church in Jersey City Heights. The next open house will be from 1 to 4 p.m. on June 25.
Lucy with her artwork