CHESHIRE — Diane Calabro was sworn in as town historian earlier this month, taking over the volunteer role from Jeanné Chesanow.
Calabro said she is excited and already forming ideas for advancing the historical record of the town. Among her extensive list is the goal to capture oral histories, focusing on the 20th Century, continuing to research enslaved people in Cheshire, and researching the history and significance of various town groups and civic organizations. She is also planning to research aspects of the town’s history involving manufacturing, transportation, mining, and education.
Calabro said following Chesanow is not going to be easy.
“I thought there is no way I could ever come close to accomplishing what she has done,” said Calabro, noting Chesanow’s many contributions, including authoring books, creating the online Cheshirepedia and more. “She’s a huge presence in our town.”
As she pondered her decision, Calabro said she asked Chesanow, a longtime friend and collaborator, for advice. According to Calabro, the long-serving town historian said, “I think you would be great.”
Calabro previously served for 10 years as Cheshire Historical Society president and will continue her volunteer work there. Contacts made at the Historical Society will be useful in her new role, she said.
“At the society, I met a lot of people and came into contact with so many of our civic and community groups and group leaders here in town,” she said. “Inge Venus at the Cheshire Garden Club, John Bates at Toastmasters, Meredith Sturges at DAR, Rita Giannotti at Suburban Garden Club, Joan Pilarcyzk at Artsplace, Ruel Miller at the Grange, John Fournier at Cheshirepedia, Ilona Somogyi at Ball & Socket, to name just a few people.”
Calabro said she “would like to see the town historian role include these civic groups and capture their history and significance in our town.”
“Christine Pittsley introduced the role and importance of minority groups in Cheshire with her Jube Road blogs and her talk about Italian-Americans in Cheshire,” Calabro said. “This is another important part of our town's history that needs more attention. Mitzi Romano walks all over Cheshire with her History Hound and finds the most interesting Cheshire stories. It’s time for me to get out of the house, literally out of the Hitchcock-Phillips House, and see the rest of the town’s history.”
During her time at the historical society, Calabro was involved with writing a strategic plan for the organization and incorporating museum best practices into the museum’s work and overall development. The society joined with the American Association of Small & Local History Organizations Standards of Excellence program and worked in collaboration with Connecticut Humanities and Connecticut League of History Organizations to accomplish those tasks.
Calabro can be reached at TownHistorian@cheshirect.org