Three Village Historical Society prospers under Irizarry

Three Village Historical Society prospers under Irizarry

Mari Irizarry

During the onset of the pandemic, the Three Village Historical Society had a difficult decision regarding laying off employees when they were unable to hold events which generate revenue.

Part of Three Village Historical Society Director Mari Irizarry’s (left) job is archiving records. Above, she is with Long Island Library Resources Council Project Archivist Robert Anen with an archival box containing the audio tapes from Glenda Dickerson’s Eel Catching in Setauket project that was originally believed to be lost. Photo by Beverly C. Tyler

They could keep only one person on staff, and they chose at the time creative services manager Mari Irizarry, who has worked with TVHS since 2016. Earlier this year, the TVHS board of trustees appointed Irizarry the society’s director, a position that hadn’t been filled for some time.

TVHS president, Jeff Schnee, said the society had reached a point where they needed someone as director once again as the board of trustees looked to work with various organizations, develop relationships with community members and enrich its educational programs. The society is also planning to open the Dominick-Crawford Barn Exhibit and Education Center in the near future. The preservation project will feature expanded archives, an exhibition and education center, and a gift shop.

Schnee said after working nearly a year with Irizarry he knew she would be the perfect director.

“Mari’s superpower is that she’s a bridge builder,” he said.

He added Irizarry has helped TVHS work with other art and cultural organizations in the area, which he said is ideal as whenever people attend an event, they ask what else there is to do locally. Schnee said it’s a win-win situation where the society recommends neighboring museums and galleries, and they do the same by suggesting the historical society to visitors.

Among Irizarry’s accomplishments is forming a youth advisory committee with high school students, which Schnee said is “huge” for the society’s future as they share their ideas and volunteer at events. Irizarry reaches out to the committee members’ parents to ask them to get involved, too.

“It’s broadening the experience, the skills and the potential of our board and membership,” Schnee said.

Irizarry brings some 20 years of experience in nonprofit and government sectors. Schnee said with her past experiences with nonprofits, she’s been able to attract more people to the society and many have joined because of her. This year there have been 125 first-time members.

Currently, TVHS is working on the museum that will be housed in the Dominick-Crawford Barn and will feature a 1,500-square-foot first floor of educational and exhibit space. Schnee said Irizarry is on the design team of the museum, and he is confident in her abilities.

“We’re so lucky to have her,” Schnee said.

Irizarry has also developed the gift shop currently in the historical society’s main building on North Country Road. When talking to the director about the gift shop, Schnee said he had hoped to create an experience for visitors.

“She developed what was a small little area into a marvelous array of books as well as other items locally produced that visitors can take back as a nice memento of visiting our establishment,” he said.

Margo Arceri, Tri-Spy Tours owner, credited Irizarry for bringing interesting Culper Spy Ring-oriented merchandise to the society’s gift store.

According to the society, there have been 1,600 transactions at the gift store this year.

Arceri also praised Irizarry for her work during the pandemic

“She really kept that train moving when the rest of the world stopped,” she said.

Mari Irizarry and Jeff Schnee address attendees at the groundbreaking of the Dominick-Crawford Barn Exhibit and Education Center in March. Photo by Raymond Janis

Arceri said planning virtual events during the pandemic has taken the historical society to the next level, and Irizarry’s forward thinking has helped TVHS immensely. According to a recent Year in Review email from the society, there were 58,000 attendees to TVHS events, either in-person or virtually, who live across the United States and five countries.

“I think she put on all her different hats, and she shines with each one quite well, and I think the key was that she kept us moving forward in terms of creative thinking,” Arceri said.

Over the last couple of years, Irizarry has spearheaded free events on Culper Spy Day and this year introduced the first Three Village Outdoor Winter Market.

“She has a passion for the society,” Arceri said. “She has a passion for the community, and I think that we’re very fortunate to have her.”

Beverly C. Tyler, TVHS historian and education committee member, described Irizarry as a positive multitasker and people person. He said she has been learning as she goes and is organized, a good manager and executive.

“She has a natural talent for working with people and getting things done,” he said.

Tyler added, “She has progressed from being a media person to having all around knowledge of what the society needs and what’s best for the society.”

The historian added she knows how to spot people’s strengths and how they can best contribute. He noted regarding the various planning committees, Irizarry coordinates well with the members. “We know when we’re working with her on a project what’s expected of us, and she knows exactly how to get the most out of what we’re doing to make the society move forward,” he said.

“She has a passion for the society,” Arceri said. “She has a passion for the community, and I think that we’re very fortunate to have her.”

For steering the historical society toward the future, Irizarry is among TBR News Media’s 2022 People of the Year.