28 February 2023
By Göran R Buckhorn
Last Thursday, 23 February, the Zoom event “Preserving the History of Rowing, its People and Places” was organised by the committee of the Head of the Schuylkill Regatta (HOSR). Around 120 people had signed up to take part in the event that started at 7 p.m. (ET).
In the invitation, which was open for everyone interested in rowing history not only in the Philadelphia area but around the world, the HOSR Committee 50 wrote: “Rowing may be touted as one of the oldest sports, however cataloging and archiving its documents and objects are in its infancy.”
Facilitators of the event were HORS Executive Director Jennifer Wesson and Zoom host Rick Stehlik, of Malta BC. Rick published a popular article on HTBS on 10 January 2023 about how he had restored Joe Burk’s Pocock shell, which at the time of the Zoom event was the most read article on HTBS so far for the year.
Guests for the evening were Dotty Brown, author of Boathouse Row: Waves of Change in the Birthplace of American Rowing (2016 ); yours truly who informed the participants about HTBS; Al McKenzie from the Pocock Museum & Event Center, who, with the help of Nicole Klein, who is the project lead of the Associated Students of the University of Washington Shell House, talked about the work they do out in Seattle; Tom Weil, acclaimed rowing historian and keeper of an enormous collection of rowing memorabilia, talked about the River & Rowing Museum in Henley, England, where Tom had been a trustee for some 20+ years before he retired from the position in 2020; and Bill Miller, another well-known rowing historian who is in charge of the rowing history website rowinghistory.net and a board member of the National Rowing Foundation (NRF).
Both Tom and Bill talked briefly about the rowing exhibit and the NRF’s Rowing Hall of Fame, which had been located at Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut between March 2008 and August 2014. Sadly, when the museum decided to demolish the building that held the exhibit and the Hall of Fame, the NRF had to move out from the museum and put the artefacts from the exhibit into storage. The items are still waiting to be displayed in some other location.
Bill said that he had been in contact with a few places where some of the stored artefacts might be able to be showed for the public. His greatest hope is Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota, Florida, which has one of the finest rowing courses in the U.S.
Tom had earlier mentioned that it is now only the River & Rowing Museum in Henley that permanently has rowing artefacts on display. Regrettably, like many museums around the world, the museum in Henley is struggling with a lack of funds.
After the guests had had their presentations, it was an open stage for other participants who wanted to leave information on something that had been said. Among those taking the opportunity was HTBS’s Tim Koch, whose dedication to rowing history knows no bounds as he was up in the middle of the night in London to partake in the event. Tim mentioned that the River & Rowing Museum this spring will have a new director, Steve O’Connor, who is the CEO of Fulham Reach Boat Club in London. Many others also added their expertise to the conversation.
I was personally happy to see my fellow HTBS-ians Rick Stehlik, Tim Koch, Bill Miller and Tom Weil – and in the sea of faces on my computer screen, I also saw Bill Lanouette and John Schoonover.
This was a very entertaining and interesting event, and well organised by Jennifer Wesson and Rick Stehlik.
Jennifer Wesson summed up the event in a follow-up email where she wrote:
This Story Hour is unlike any other we’ve held in the past in that it provides momentum to carry an initiative forward. The takeaway from the evening is that there are a number of folks around the country (and world) working to save and archive our sport’s history and a need for an organized effort to lead and establish a collective digital archive, linking physical repositories (mini-museums) throughout the world. This initiative could provide resources to clubs/organizations on how to consistently archive and link with existing repositories, institutionalizing a plan for the preservation of our history for generations to come.
Lastly, we all agreed we need to get more young folks involved now. Next steps: pull together a steering committee to begin hatching a plan, pulling in resources, and moving this effort forward. If you would like to be part of this steering committee, please reach out to me at email@example.com.
For those who missed last Thursday’s Zoom event, it is now available on YouTube:
The next HOSR Story Hour will be held in late March/early April.
The Riverside Museum in Glasgow Scotland has rowing memorabilia on permanent display.
My own web site has a lot of rowing and sculling history. Parsoageriverman.com
Thank you for your deep and ongoing appreciation and celebration of rowing history
I continue to write about unusual stories from the past of Philly’s Boathouse Row
You can find them at Boathouserowthebook.com/blog
Best, Dotty Brown