Youngstown Historical Center Widens Outreach

Marcelle R. Wilson
YHCIL Site Manager

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Since COVID-19 hit, the Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor has experienced many changes that compose our “new normal.”

Primarily, we now serve two diverse audiences: one who enters through our doors to visit, attend programs and activities and conduct research; and one who “visits” the museum via our website and YouTube channel.

There are four part-time employees, three part-time student-employees and two interns who run the 32,000-square-foot museum and archives. We have the same number of employees since before the pandemic but are now expected to produce not only content, exhibits and events but also additional content and exhibits for our new, more robust online audience. It is a nice problem to have, except our workforce has not expanded at the same rate as our expected productivity. We have also received more requests for programming outside our museum, which requires staff to be away from the site more often.

Despite these new challenges, we had a stellar year in 2022 and can look to several accomplishments.

We received a gift of money from the John and Doris Andrews Memorial Fund, which allowed us to hire a part-time director of education and outreach. Nicole Marino spends her 10 hours per week creating programs, interacting with tour groups and presenting Sparking Memories programs for local skilled nursing facilities. She has served over 1,000 children and adults who make up part of the Mahoning Valley’s underserved population that results from economic and special circumstances.

We received a grant from the Ohio Humanities Council to conduct oral history interviews with women in the workforce from the 1970s to 1990s. We will use these interviews to compare experiences of women from an earlier time to those of the present day. This will help us identify improvements in working conditions and where progress has yet to be made. This grant allows us to hire three part-time historians and to hold several public programs, an intergenerational workshop and two instructional workshops for Girl Scouts and the public.

In 2022, we also held three successful conferences at the museum (spanning a total of eight days) and we hosted three films for a literary festival. We also partnered with the Girl Scouts of North East Ohio to provide historical programs and activities.

We have many plans to continue the momentum in 2023. We have interviews to conduct, programs to develop and an exhibit to create that will accompany our grant project. We plan to hold workshops on topics of historic preservation, best practices and grant writing.

We have started to identify grants and donors to provide us with additional monetary support
to allow us to sustain and increase the outreach and programs we’ve developed, as well as to develop more. Our wish is to serve more of the Mahoning Valley’s underserved population.

Areas of growth that we are continuously working on include increasing our budget, production of new and innovative programs for the public, digital content for our website and improved audience capacity and customer service. Our goal is to tell even more stories of the many diverse people who make up our working community and to serve as a unifying and edifying destination where everyone feels included and welcome.

There were many positive and exciting events at the museum as we celebrated our 30th anniversary in 2022. Attendance increased over 50% compared with 2021, and we reached a variety of disadvantaged people.

Our goal is to continue and do an even better job in 2023.