After so much of the early English, German, and the latter immigrants group presence began diminishing, the Greater Astoria Historical Society launched itself in 1985 to protect and share Astoria’s past. Nonetheless, the society isn’t complaining about Astoria’s urbanization or growing population. They aren’t scared of change; they claim to be “dedicated to preserving our past and using it to promote our community’s future”. With staff of over a dozen and additional volunteers, the society can defend the dynamics that made Astoria a self -sustaining, close knit neighborhood.
This doesn’t mean that the transformation Astoria is going through i whole s beneficial, many threats now hinder the Astoria community and the society has acknowledged that. Executive director, Bob Singleton claims that with so many young people from the American midwest, fresh immigrants from around the globe, and a trend of descendants of long time residents leaving, Astoria requires a restoration of its small town mentality. Furthermore, he added with a much larger population, Astoria can’t loose its public services, like it has lost a chunk of its hospitals. “There were 5 or 6 hospitals before, and now there is only one left,” said Singleton. Furthermore, with less interconnectivity between residents, a result of an overwhelming amount of newcomers, people don’t know each other as much, and this was what made Astoria the calm rural haven in the past. “The ties that used to the bind the neighborhood together are under strain,” said Singleton.
The society welcomes tourists and residents alike, with monthly town hall like meetings and frequent walking tours. Besides being guides for the town’s visitors, the society spreads more Astoria pride with guest speakers in local schools and mainly temporary, yet well organized exhibits. There is one permanent exhibit, “Peeking Through The Keyhole: Long Island City Life, 1920-1950,” that gives the society a sense of home and a past. After the exhibit or presentation is over it’s easy to show off one’s newfound knowledge of Astoria by purchasing t-shirts, literature, and souvenirs.
Right now the society manages itself from the fourth floor of the Quinn building. Although they could use a larger headquarters for more permanent exhibits, a theater, and a gift shop, perhaps a permanence of an entire building would be too bold of a decision infringing on the society’s original mission. Perhaps, the society is more of a mobile outreach program instead of a museum or gallery.