On May 17 the Historical Society of Forest Park will convene for the first time in at least two years. This is a momentous occasion and is cause to celebrate for anyone who cares about the village’s history.
A number of issues have long plagued this sleepy, but quirky organization, among them: personality clashes, procedural disagreements and the perceived unilateral approach of President Rich Vitton. Now, finally, it appears that this might be a thing of the past.
To move ahead, those involved in the meeting need to tackle two major issues: reviving the organization’s board as a working group and finding a place to house the society’s archived content.
The Historical Society of Forest Park is currently an active, private nonprofit, according to the Illinois Secretary of State, but it has not held a meeting in two years. Electing new members will pump essential energy into this dormant organization.
Perhaps the most important, and controversial, issue is where to house the society’s artifacts.
For several years, Vitton has carefully and meticulously filed and archived the society’s possessions. He told the Review that he spent between $7,000 and $8,000 of his own money and countless hours doing so.
It is apparent that Vitton cares deeply for the society’s materials and went out of his way to carefully archive the photographs and various objects. But, those objects belong to the society, not him. Better yet, they belong to the people of Forest Park and should be displayed in public, not in his basement.
“People are welcome to come and see this stuff,” Vitton said.
That’s a kind gesture, but it’s not his place to decide, where the artifacts are housed; regardless of how much time and effort he spent restoring them.
The society’s constitution should serve to remind those involved in next week’s meeting why, in fact, the society exists: “…To bring together those people interested in the history of Forest Park.”
There are at least a few people interested in seeing the society thrive and Vitton should welcome their enthusiasm for and interest in the village’s history.
The society has always operated in a quirky way, dating back to the late long-time president Dr. Frank Orland who also had a tendency to keep close control. But, at least he held meetings to discuss the village’s history.
That’s neither here, nor there, though. What’s important is, for the first time in several years, the society will begin operating as a functioning board and will work to find the village’s history a public home. The latter task will no doubt be the more difficult one.
One of Vitton’s chief concerns, and a very real one, is that there is currently no obvious place to house the items. All of the locations that have been suggested by the village, and even Vitton, are impractical.
As you can see there is obviously a lot to talk about; but, hey, at least they’re talking, and hopefully history won’t repeat itself.
“If you ignore your history, you’re doomed to your past,” Vitton said.