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New director takes the wheel at Sewickley Heights History Center

| Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
Sewickley Heights History Center Director Dana Greenblatt stands for a photo inside the center Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013.

As Dana Greenblatt, new Sewickley Heights History Center director, prepares for Saturday's Riding & Driving party — the biggest fundraiser of the year — she has begun to think about ways to connect more people to the center and to the area's rich history.

Greenblatt, 36, of Butler, who was hired in April, already has added an antique car parade to the event as a way to get more people involved and interested in the event.

Replacing Joe McLean of Sewickley Heights, who served as the first and only director for six years, Greenblatt said she and new board members plan to draw more people to the center by establishing programs geared toward their specific interests.

“One of the first things we want to do is try to build more videos as a way to get people to come in and find out we are more than just a few antique cars and carriages,” said Greenblatt, a former interior designer who has worked at the center and has studied art history.

In January, garden club members will go to the center to view a video — made with help from the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation — about the area's lost gardens. Most were in Sewickley Heights, but others from Pittsburgh area are featured.

Other videos in the works will feature footage and information about area art collections, antique cars and horses.

Greenblatt, who is working on her master's degree in art education at Carlow University, said she and the board “really want to sink their teeth” into getting more children into the center.

“They can get information for school history reports and learn all about the area and its early industrialists,” she said.

“We have a lot of adults who come here, but we also want to get to the next generation so we can keep the center going,” said Greenblatt, who indicated the center is run strictly by donations.

“Just something as simple as having an after-school program and letting them go through a trunk of old clothes and playing dress-up would get them interested.”

She and board members want to continue the Family Fun Day event, which they were unable to offer this year.

Started by McLean a few years ago, the event — featuring farm animals in connection with the land's farming history — has drawn as many as 600 participants.

McLean, who now works in the investment field for a gas and oil company, said the event was one way the center tried to make history fun.

It was one of many ideas, artifacts and events he brought to the center, which was built on land original to the Snyder family farm. It looks across to Wilpen Hall, the estate built in 1899 for William Penn Snyder.

“It was the dream of G. Whitney Snyder Sr. (the late grandson of William Penn) to have a nature and history center, as well as a park for all to enjoy. It was my privilege to work with the Snyder family, the board of directors, the borough of Sewickley Heights and countless volunteers to make this dream come true,” he said.

When McLean first arrived, he said, the museum had just been built and was a “blank canvas.” It eventually became filled with donations of funds, photos, artifacts, antique cars and carriages and a mural, depicting various Sewickley Heights icons, honoring “the unique history of Sewickley Heights,” he said.

“Now we have an admission-free museum to preserve our community's history,” he said. “I really appreciated the unbelievable support of longtime residents, local businesses and organizations who embraced our museum's mission.”

He said his replacement is “terrific” and “super qualified” for the position.

“There's definitely a learning curve here,” Greenblatt said, “but I'm enjoying the challenge,” she said.

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or jbarron@tribweb.com.

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