It was a first for the Cole County Historical Society and Museum and Jane Randolph Jefferson Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
On March 2, the Jane Randolph Jefferson Chapter presented the Cole County Historical Society and Museum with the National DAR Historic Preservation Recognition Award — the first time they had ever nominated a local organization or entity for this award and the first time the society has received a national honor.
"We knew about this national award and the ladies who have been with the DAR chapter for several years, Linda (Dunbar, current chapter regent) and other ladies, thought it would be nice to look for an organization or group that would fit this recognition," said Rhonda Bish, historic preservation committee chair for the Jane Randolph Jefferson DAR chapter. "We thought the Cole County Historical Society preserves so many things, they have a Revolutionary War exhibit and do a lot for showcasing local veterans' history, and host their getting to know our community events that bring people together to learn those communities' history. That kind of commitment to the history of the county was worth honoring."
Bish and DAR chapter members informed the Cole County Historical Society and Museum about wanting to nominate the group for this award, which is one of two the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution gives. The award recognizes and honors an individual or group that has done recent remarkable volunteer work at the community level in all areas of historic preservation: buildings, landmarks, monuments, cemeteries, historic districts, statues, museum collections, manuscripts, documents and archival materials, according to the DAR website. The other is the Historic Preservation Medal, recognizing an individual person who has done extraordinary work over a long period of time in establishing a historic district, preserving a local landmark, restoring or preserving objects of historic cultural significance, or establishing or participating in oral history projects, youth leadership and education, as it pertains to historic preservation, at the regional, state, and/or national level.
The organizations worked together to assemble three newspaper articles that documented their continued efforts to preserve local history, including one that highlighted a new event held last fall, the Madison Street Walk. They also gathered letters of recommendation from three individuals — including Mayor Carrie Tergin — who could significantly share the impact the Cole County Historical Society and Museum makes year-round to preserve its county's rich history.
The chapter then submitted all these items along with a formal nomination form and letter to the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, who decides who receives this award. The group also contributes to memorials and commemorates various historic sites, participates in major restorations, leads preservation projects, oversees the DAR Museum, digitizing and provides a public genealogical research system, collects and offers the Americana Collection of more than 4,000 diverse American imprints and manuscripts and takes care of the historic buildings that make up its national headquarters in Washington, D.C.
"I thought it would take several months to be approved, six months or more," Bish said. "I was surprised that we heard back in less than two months. They agreed the society was deserving."
The chapter held its monthly meeting March 2 at the Cole County Historical Society and Museum's DeLong Room, able to formally present the society the NSDAR Historic Preservation Recognition Award certificate and medal that was framed to include at its headquarters on Madison Street. Society and Museum Executive Director Emily Luker and Board President Dale Verslues, who is also a member of the M. Gunn and B. Gratz Brown Foundation, accepted the award. More than 30 guests were present during the gathering, including chapter members, Tergin, and longtime Society and Museum supporters former Gov. Bob Holden and his wife, Lori.
"Gov. Holden and his wife shared some very nice remarks about the society," Luker said. "After Linda (Dunbar) presented Dale and I with the award, we also talked about our mission and work at the society and museum."
Luker said Verslues then talked about how much he and the society appreciates its volunteers, only having Luker as a part-time director and a part-time office manager on staff.
"Our librarian, docents, everyone else are all volunteer. Then after the presentation and the chapter's meeting, the DAR has a small reception for everyone at the Upschulte House. We all returned to the museum, where those present took a tour of the museum," Luker said. "We have never received national recognition like this; it is such an honor."
Like Luker said, a large part of both the Jane Randolph Jefferson chapter's and Cole County Historical Society and Museum's missions is historic preservation. Even though the two organization may not have partnered in the past, they are eager to look for such opportunities in the future, Luker added.
Bish said she also is excited to see where those opportunities might lead, knowing their missions coincide and the importance of not only preserving but sharing the area's history with others.
"There a lot of groups who work hard and have devoted volunteers. It seems they are there and take care of it, not getting the thanks or recognition for the fact that what they do is really important. Keeping all the papers, books, pictures and items displayed and available for others to see and remember is important," Bish said. "If it wasn't for people like the society members and docents, no one would remember what downtown Jefferson City was like or how these communities were built. It is there to share with everyone."