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Collier Township's history is in uncharted territory

| Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Randy Jarosz | For The Bridgeville Area News
Collier Township Manager Sal Sirabella leafs through an original document written by William T. Kerr, the founder of the Flag Day Association of Western Pennsylvania dated October 20, 1948.
Randy Jarosz | For The Bridgeville Area News
Collier Township Manager Sal Sirabella looks at framed tax receipts that range from 1895to 1909, donated by a local resident. The receipts and other items would be the start of a Collier Township Historical Society.
Documents collected for Collier Township's future historical society.

Collier Township needs a place to store its history.

The township — site of the former Charles E. Kelly Support Facility and birthplace of Flag Day — has no historical society and no place to store artifacts donated by residents.

“What we need is a collection point — somewhere to collect the various items that people may have that are just sitting in people's basements,” said township Manager Sal Sirabella.

Currently, Sirabella stores donated artifacts in his office. He said the items consist mostly of books and papers, along with old photos. He said he also has a framed group of tax receipts from the 1800s and framed photos from the old support facility.

The settling of the township dates back to the mid-1700s, and it was officially established in 1875. Formerly an area of mills and farms, the township has more recently become a hub of residential development with the establishment of Nevillewood and other housing communities.

It will ultimately take more than a collection point, he said.

“What we need at this point is a plan and a budget and a steering committee,” he said. “This is something we'd like to do for 2014.”

While some residents have expressed interest in forming a committee, he said, “interest is one thing — doing is another.

“Ultimately, we would have to sort and decide where to display these items,” he said. “It takes — like anything else — a process: You have to collect and review, categorize them and determine what is and isn't historical. Then inventory the catalogue. Then find a facility of some kind where we can have the display open.”

Sirabella said his biggest concern is what will happen to the display after it is initially put together.

“We want to sustain the activity, not just all of a sudden realize there's nobody left around,” he said. “Sustainability concerns me a lot.”

To have the items displayed, he said, will take not only a space, but a staff to man the display area.

“Then we need a volunteer corps,” he said. “And that's hard to come by these days.”

Still, he said, the most pressing issue is establishing a collection point and a group to lead it — something other area historical societies also found difficult.

In Dormont, the eight initial members of the historical society met in Murial Moreland's living room for years. “We really didn't have a place to meet or display for a couple years,” she said. “We met in the library for awhile, and then, when they needed the room for a computer lab, we came back to my living room.”

Moreland founded the society in 1999, and she said they were lucky to establish it when they did.

“The older the population gets, some die or move away, and the second generation comes in and throws everything away,” she said. “We're fortunate that the older generation shared with us when they did.”

It is a worry Sirabella said he shares.

“The biggest concern is trying to accumulate this stuff so it doesn't get thrown out when people move,” he said.

Megan Guza is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5810 or mguza@tribweb.com.

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