During the release of their book, “Images of America: Mullica Hill and Old Harrison Township,” Jim Turk, Karen Heritage and the historical society created an interactive exhibit on Old Harrison Township’s history, which includes Elk and South Harrison townships.
The free exhibit runs until May 19 on Saturdays and Sundays, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., at Old Town Hall or by appointment by visiting www.HarrisonHistorical.com. It will also be open for the antiques fair in June. Since it has been open, society members estimated around 1,200 people have stopped by.
“The book had been released in October, and that’s about the same time this opened and we thought, why not have it coincide with the book? There’s highlights in the book and hopefully that will have some people say ‘oh, neat,'” said Heritage, a trustee of the Harrison Township Historical Society.
She said the society added a section where people can physically rotate photos that captured moments such as the Route 322 Bypass, “winter tales,” skating in Ewan and the blizzard of 1958.
The exhibit features some images of recent history, but the two said it’s mainly focused on the previous centuries, which allows for people to think about how the buildings looked back then, versus now.
“We also decided to spotlight a little bit of the history of photography when our first images were glass negatives,” said Heritage. “We were like ‘OK, let’s put a bit of history on photography in here,’ and for a lot of people now, [their phones are] their camera and they don’t know a lot about what photography was.”
Turk added the exhibit is a way for the society to encourage locals to submit their own photographs or materials from the previous century or two and help it build its collection of resources for all three townships. The society said it is the de facto registry for Elk and South Harrison, who do not have a historical society.
“We are some place, we are not any place,” said Turk. “What makes a place distinctive is the heritage and the people who have created it. In this case, we’re looking at several centuries of people who have come from different places and different histories to create the place that’s here now.”
Heritage said people can also lend their voices in the exhibit by marking where their families lived, and where they live currently. For those outside of Old Harrison Township, she said they are provided with Post-It notes where visitors write where they came from.
Another portion of the exhibit includes a question on if the three townships should be combined to recreate Old Harrison Township. Reactions have been mixed.
“We had people weigh in on it, if you don’t like the idea, put a pink Post-It up; if you’re not sure, use a gold one; and if you’re for it, use a green one,” said Heritage.
Turk added the exhibit is being offered for free because the society wants everyone and anyone to be able to come in and learn about the town’s history.
Once the exhibit closes, Turk hopes to obtain more materials for the society through donations and acquisitions (Mullica Hill and parts of South Harrison Township are on the state and national historical register) to have a more thorough view of the towns’ histories.
For more information about future exhibits, visit www.HarrisonHistorical.com.