By Erika Webb
Those who preserve, protect and proudly promote their slice of the past are joining forces to help support the historical treasure trove that is Volusia County.
Area museums, historical societies, cultural groups and non-profit organizations are pulling together to create a history consortium.
Quarterly meetings are being hosted at various historic sites throughout the county, and the fledgling group is developing a mission statement and planning its course of action, gathering interest and momentum, which shows goal reaching potential.
The most recent meeting was Jan. 19 at Lilian Place in Daytona Beach.
Nancy Long, president of The Heritage Preservation Trust, which owns the unique Victorian mansion, the first large beachside house built in Daytona Beach, is looking forward to being part of a historical site partnership.
"At the meeting, we talked about the problems we all share, like marketing," Ms. Long said. "One of our big problems ... we need a calendar. So many times the Trust will book something at Lilian Place only to find out Halifax (Historical Museum) has something across the river on the same night."
A unified calendar would enable museums and other groups to help one another with events and prevent them from vying for the same audience on certain dates, she explained.
Another idea brought up at the meeting was the creation of a brochure containing a map of all historical sites countywide.
Such a map would provide sightseeing ease to history buffs interested in touring the many sites in the area, and may offer information and locations of which locals and tourists may have been unaware.
"They would be available at Lilian Place and at each location on the brochure," Ms. Long said. "We talked about how to afford to put that together."
Sandra Walters of the Enterprise Preservation Society became involved through her affiliation with the West Volusia Historical Society, which named her Historian of the Year for 2013.
"I am very excited about the formation of a county-wide history consortium because it is bringing together folks involved in local history organizations and events," Mrs. Walters said. "We have a common purpose, but we ordinarily might not get to meet and interact due to the 'palmetto curtain' that often divides east and west Volusia County."
Mrs. Walters and her husband, Roy, are working with other volunteers to open the Enterprise Heritage Center, a museum in the nearly restored original Enterprise School House.
"As one of the organizers of a 'newbie' museum in Enterprise, I am looking forward to sharing ideas for events and tips for successful museum operation from those with lots of experience," she said.
Monica Drake, the coordinator at the Ponce Inlet Historical Museum, drafted the group's mission statement.
She became involved with the effort via Leigh Finner, former director at the New Smyrna Museum of History, which is part of the Southeast Volusia Historical Society.
"So many of us are trying to accomplish the same thing," Ms. Drake said. "Sometimes communication is lacking but this will help all of us communicate better. It will be beneficial to Volusia County and its cultural enterprises."
West Volusia Historical Society board member and retired assistant executive director Rita Gillis said one of the first consortium meetings was at the Ormond Beach Historical Society's Anderson-Price Memorial Building in June.
Ms. Gillis and OBHS member Joyce Benedict discussed the idea of starting the group over lunch one day.
"When I was working years ago, there was one the historical society belonged to called the Central Florida History Consortium," Ms. Gillis said. "But it covered such a wide range logistically and they only met on weekdays. Some places it would take you three hours to get to before you could even get to the meeting."
For those reasons, she said, it didn't meet the needs of societies and museums in Volusia.
Once Ms. Gillis contacted interested parties on the west side of the county and Ms. Benedict got in touch with those on the east side, they found there was enough interest for quarterly weekend meetings.
"The West Volusia Historical Society did one in December. We had it Saturday afternoon and had people from Flagler ... Bunnell, which was nice because they're not really Volusia County, but they're right there and we all participate in the same things," Ms. Gillis said. "We had people from the east side who had never seen our museum and we had tours."
"We do it to promote history, period," she added.
The group discusses upcoming events, distributes flyers to be displayed at the various museum to help promote each other's happenings and exchanges ideas that are working.
"Ideas for the individual areas," Ms. Gillis said. "Someone (elsewhere) might have an idea to work here. We bring copies of extra books we have for libraries and just try to help each other to bring history to life for everybody."
Volusia is one county with two venues, Ms. Gillis explained.
"They have the ocean, we have the river," she said. "They have major attractions like Bike Week and Speed Weeks and on this side we have Stetson and promote the history of everything. Ormond has Rockefeller and we have John B. Stetson and Henry DeLand. There are different attractions but history blends the areas together."
With around 15 people at the meeting in DeLand, Ms. Gillis said there was a "great exchange of ideas" for promotion and fundraising.
A distinct core focus will ensure the group's success, she said.
"It's all history we all have in common and working for whether it's restoration of a building or going into the schools and talking to the kids," Ms. Gillis said.
OBHS Executive Director Suzanne Heddy said the idea of individual organizations getting together to share ideas and common goals always is a good one.
"People can learn from each other," Ms. Heddy said. "We can get new ideas and find out what others are doing (to be) successful.
She too is interested in finding ways to coordinate events more efficiently to avoid overlap.
David Rowe, operations director for the Holly Hill Museum said there were two meetings prior to the one in Ormond Beach. The first was at the beginning of 2013 with around 20 attendees.
"I called it the Helping Hands Program for all historical societies to get together and work as a team to put this together," Mr. Rowe said.
"I don't care who started it, all I want to do is see it continue," he added good naturedly. "It seems like there's a good consensus of people who want to be involved."
Though Mr. Rowe has been focused on comprising an eastern Volusia group of historical societies and museums, he said the more the merrier.
"Larger groups seem to get more grant opportunities," he said. "West Volusia (Historical Society) seems to do real well with granting."
Like his counterparts, Mr. Rowe would like an opportunity to learn from the successes of other entities in addition to finding ways to avoid conflicting dates and times when it comes to event scheduling.
"The main thing is for everyone to work together," Mr. Rowe said. "Many like to push ahead by themselves and go nowhere."