Historical society has new executive director

November 12, 2006|by JULIE E. GREENE

James D. Neville was planning on retiring from more than 33 years of federal service and move south to a warmer climate when he saw a job listing online for an executive director for the Washington County Historical Society.

Neville had stopped by the Hagerstown area before to get gas on Dual Highway while traveling to Washington, D.C., where his two daughters attended college.

But it wasn't until he came to town for the job interview and saw downtown that he realized how distinctive the city is with its old architecturally stylish buildings at the city's core.

Neville, 55, was more familiar with Washington County's rolling hills and Civil War history.

People tend to think the historical society is centered on Hagerstown, but its mission includes developing an interest in and preserving the history of Washington County - all of the county, Neville said.


"We want (local residents) to come here and feel they are represented," Neville said.

Neville started his new job July 5. The former executive director, Mindy Marsden, retired at the end of June but stayed on part time through mid-October to help with the transition.

Neville's most recent job was as curator of the Fort Drum and 10th Mountain Division Historical Collection for the Army near Watertown, N.Y.

Society President Bill Soulis said board officials were impressed with Neville's rsum.

He has a bachelor's degree in history with a minor in German and master's degrees in education administration, international relations and library science.

Neville served in the U.S. Army and completed Airborne and Ranger training.

"Only a few - the tough of the tough - can make it through that," Soulis said.

After six years with the Army, Neville worked for the Army and Air Force as a civilian. This included an assignment as a guidance counselor and education specialist at military education centers, including Fort Drum Education Center in New York.

He was a reference librarian at Jefferson Community College in Watertown and taught history and political science at the community college and Empire State College.

While Neville said he didn't have experience in fundraising before this, he already has the society selling jars of apple butter and hopes to have the society selling postcards by next summer. The first batch would feature images of the society's home - The Miller House.

"Any nonprofit always has to be concerned with raising funds," Neville said.

Money is needed to protect and preserve the society's collections, including documents. He'd like to expand the paper and photo archives so there is more information about the entire county.

Neville reopened the two-room Beaver Creek School Museum, which the society owns. The school closed in 1961.

He had it open every Sunday and one Saturday in October with almost 100 total visitors. They included at least 12 former students.

Neville also wants to increase membership, which is at 338 members, and volunteers, of which there are about six.

Volunteers are needed to be docents at The Miller House and the school museum, to help with research in the genealogical library and with the collection.

He hopes new members of the community will join the society.

Neville has been commuting home to New York on weekends to help prepare his house for sale, but hopes his wife, Jean Casbeer, will join him in Hagerstown this month.

About the historical society

The Washington County Historical Society is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday at 135 W. Washington St. in downtown Hagerstown. Call 301-797-8782 or e-mail for more information.

The Herald-Mail Articles