Bloggin’ Historical director departs Society

Shortly after it was launched in early November, the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society's fledgling blog, The Hysterical Society (albemarlehistory.blogspot.com), was yanked from the Society's main website. Now, four months later, the name of its creator has been yanked from the Society's masthead. On March 1, Society director Douglas Day called it quits after five and half years.

"It was a mutual parting of the ways," says Day. "But I knew it was coming."

Indeed, the Society's board was none-too-pleased when Day launched his Hysterical Society blog, which took an irreverent, humorous approach to local history and preservation. At least one Board member dubbed it "tasteless," and the board ensured the removal of a link from the Society's official website.

"The Society needs more publicity, and a blog may be the way to go," said board member Steven Meeks, now the acting director, "but frankly, I think this was the wrong approach."

However, former City Councilor Kendra Hamilton said then it was a "great idea," as did councilor Dave Norris. "I'm adding Hysterical Society to my blogroll," wrote Norris on his own blog, "and I applaud its rebellious creator for doing his part to help make Cville history come alive!" Local photographer and preservation activist Bill Emory called it a "cool way to drag in an audience that the Historical society didn't otherwise have."

Day complied with the Board's wishes, removing the link, but he continued, as a private citizen, to operate the blog. However, shortly after a November 29 story appeared in the Hook, the blog disappeared. In a follow-up story, the Hook asked Day and Society board members why he wasn't allowed to operate the blog on his own, but Day, Meeks, and outgoing president Paul Brockman refused to comment.

Now, that same veil of secrecy appears to be surrounding Day's departure. Day says he's not allowed to discuss the circumstances as part of his termination agreement, and Meeks declined to comment. Meeks did say, however, that a new director has not been found.

"I leave the Historical Society immensely proud of what it has accomplished," says Day. "I was hired by a remarkably progressive board in 2002 to bring the Society fully into the Internet age, to open doors, and build bridges in the community."

In particular, Day says he's proud of helping to put together the Rip Payne Collection of photography, and the Frances Brand "Firsts" Collection of folk paintings, "the largest single collection in the Society's museum holdings," he says.

In addition, he mentions the Society's involvement in the Library of Congress's Veterans History Project, and events like the Spirit Walk. In the photo above, Day is pictured in costume for last year's event that takes place around Halloween, dressed as Billy Vest, a cowboy singer from Afton who recorded with Columbia Records in the 1920s.

"I still have friends on the board," says Day, "and I still hope to work with them in the future. Right now, I'm an independent folklorist, like I was before. And I'll be blogging."

Indeed, on March 7, Day launched a new blog, Piedmont Blues.

It begins, "The last blog I wrote got me in a lot of hot water..."

5 comments

Talk about stuffy! Firing a Ph.D. over a blog? Where is the Historical Society going to find someone else as qualified and intelligent to work for them, especially when potential applicants realize the board is humorless and doesn't believe in free speech.

Friday, March 7, 2008
Good morning, central Virginia!

The last blog I wrote got me in a lot of hot water, but I'm under contractual order not to talk about that. So I will refrain from mentioning anything having to do with a certain organization I shall henceforth call the Amelia County Horticultural Society. Not a word. Naught. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Nuffing.

sorry to see/read/hear that you are no longer bloggin for the hysterical.

The Historical Society engaged in a completely unnecessary and reactionary act of censorship when they took the blog down. Now they are once again censoring free speech by demanding contractually (like creepy corporate goons) that Dr Day not speak about his sudden departure. So this is what someone gets after 5 1/2 years of exemplary service to the society?

I'd say, at the very least, that the ACHS certainly owes an explanation to the many people who have parted with their hard-earned cash in the form of donations, and also with gifts of artifacts, photos, and manuscripts. Until then, my money is best spent elsewhere.

I enjoyed the blog while it lasted.