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Historical society director starting new chapter of life

| Sunday, Dec. 8, 2002

Within the last two months, Becky Crum-Renzel added a page or two to her own personal history.

Since Oct. 4, the new executive director of the Butler County Historical Society has married, moved and taken on a new job.

Now, she is ready to dedicate her days to Butler County history. She is settling into the historical society routine, seeking funding, promoting the society's assets and building programs and membership.

Crum-Renzel has no dramatic changes or goals in mind, planning mostly to build on the success of her predecessor, Rebekah Sheeler, who retired.

Changes in an organization with little staff and limited funds come slowly, she knows.

But that doesn't rule out progress.

"You just have to take things in baby steps and complete small projects," Crum-Renzel said.

Small successes have a cumulative effect, she said, and eventually, results are noticeable.

The historical society, run by a board of directors, owns four properties: The Little Red Schoolhouse, a one-room school in Butler; Cooper Cabin, an 1810 homestead cabin in Cabot; the Lowrie-Shaw House, an 1828 summer residence for U.S. Sen. Walter Lowrie, in Butler; and the Butler County Heritage Center, a museum that pays tribute to the county's industrial and agricultural past, also in Butler.

Crum-Renzel hopes to spread the word about those assets by continuing to work with schools on piquing student interest in local history and attracting adults, as well.

In addition, she hopes to draw on her education and experience in archive administration to better organize the papers and photographs the society owns.

With a bachelor's degree in history from Washington & Jefferson College and a master's degree in history with a concentration in museum archives and historical editing studies from Duquesne University, Crum-Renzel is prepared for the task.

She came to Butler from the Venango County Historical Society, where she was executive director since 1999. Earlier this year, Crum-Renzel was honored by her colleagues for her work in Venango. She received the Carol Wickkisser Memorial Award from the Pennsylvania Federation of Museums and Historical Organizations. The award is presented each year to someone who has been in the field for less than five years and who has excelled at his or her work.

"Becky has used her energy and talent to promote local history in rural Pennsylvania," the federation said in presenting the award. "Donning the many hats of minimally staffed institutions, she quickly developed education programs for adults and elementary students.

"Becky wrote training guides, established a volunteer appreciation luncheon, designed new print material, did public relations work and served as an adviser to non-paid staff. Through grant writing, Becky raised $27,000 in state and local funds to support the society's work in program, local history and archival development. Becky Crum epitomizes what every county historical society might wish for when hiring a professionally trained executive director."

Rainy Lin, Venango County Historical Society board vice president, said Crum-Renzel will be missed.

"She was a great person to work with," Lin said. "She was good at public relations. She did some school programs … and some programming

with adult education. She did a great deal of archival cataloging, too," Lin said. "It was wonderful having her. She has a lot of talent."

The Crum-Renzel file


Name: Becky Crum-Renzel

Residence: Clarion, Clarion County

Age: 27

Family: Husband, Don Renzel

Notable: Crum-Renzel is the new executive director of the Butler County Historical Society. She started last month.

Education: She has a bachelor's degree in history from Washington & Jefferson College and a master's degree in history from Duquesne University.

Hobbies: Water skiing and boating on the Clarion River

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