New Hagen History Center Exhibit Details Erie County Immigrant Roots

Over a year in the making, the Hagen History Center’s new exhibit, “The Story of Us,” is finally on display.

The exhibit, which occupies 3,000 square feet on the second floor of the center’s new exhibit building, 356 W. Sixth St., traces the history of Erie County in a series of exhibits that include stories of people who created and built the community. It opened to the public on July 14 and is expected to be on display for several years.

It’s the biggest project that Becky Weiser, Theresa Gamble and other Hagen History Center staff have undertaken in years.

“It was 3,000 square feet of empty space and a lot of stories to tell,” said Weiser, the Center’s curator.

Related:New GM has history with Erie’s Hagen History Center

Erie Immigrant Stories

There are several themed areas in the exhibit, including the “Coming to Erie” area, which features individual stories of immigrants and their families.

“It’s a very nice combination of 2D and 3D photographs, images and objects from both the archives and the curatorial collection and really follows the path of the indigenous peoples, so that the first inhabitants of the earth to the present day,” Gamble, the center’s library and archives director said.

It traces how Erie’s ancestors established ethnic neighborhoods, churches, and clubs. Included in the box is a digitized album from USCRI-Erie with photos of every immigrant from 1919 to 1925 that the organization helped bring into the Erie community.

“I was discovering images and collections of photographs that I didn’t know we had,” Gamble said. “Even though it’s a big space, it’s a small space to cover all these stories, but I think the exhibit designers did a really good job of including as much information as possible. , and it really brings out the conservative side.”

Introducing Erie Workers

A second subject can be found in the exhibition called “Erie at Work”.

“It’s about those people who have come here and found jobs both freelance and employed by other organizations, and there’s a really nice collection of them,” Gamble said. “Not just urban work situations like factories and mainstream businesses, but also farming and fishing that really held the community together.”

This gave Weiser a chance to dust off 3D artifacts – like a rare stoneware pottery bank from circa 1865 from Almost Isle Pottery that was once located on the Erie Extension Canal between West Second Street and West Third Street in Erie – who haven’t exhibited for a long time.

Hidden treasures:A look inside the Hagen History Center Archives Building

“I really like to highlight the manufacturing that was located in Erie,” she said. “We go into older companies like the Boston Store, Marx Toys, other companies like Griswold (Manufacturing), Continental Rubber Works, and the list goes on and on.”

‘Sense of pride’

Since opening, Weiser and Gamble said public reception has been positive.

“I managed to meet a few visitors while they were in the exhibit and they’re all extremely positive about what they see,” Gamble said. “They connect with their families and their life in the community, so it’s been really fun.”

Part of the Hagen History Center's, 356 W. Sixth St. in Erie, new exhibit

Weiser and Gamble see the exhibit as an opportunity for visitors to reflect on Erie’s past and how it has shaped the region today and where it is going.

“Erie has a bad reputation both from its citizens and from others, but when you look at the extent of the accomplishments over the years by the people who have settled here, it feels good to walk through it, and I think that ‘there’s a sense of pride,’ Pari said.

Baylee DeMuth can be reached at 814-450-3425 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @BayleeDeMuth.