Historic Rugby welcomed a new Executive Director in April of 2013!
What do groundhog lodges, Pennsylfawnisch Deitsch and a passion for Civil War renactment all have in common? Our new Executive Director, Zach Langley!
Zach comes to us with a variety of experience as the Director of Education at both the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center in Kutztown, Pennsylvania and the Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation in Media, PA.
He wasn’t in Rugby too long before he jumped right into another type of reenactment! During the June Lantern Tour he portrayed one of our illustrious historic citizens, Osmond Dakeyne, who was the first editor of The Rugbeian newspaper and an amateur poet who contributed works to the newspaper. Zach says “I found him most interesting because he was the first victim of the typhoid epidemic and one of those overlooked characters in the Rugby story which we still must attribute part of our modern day Rugby story to: we still carry on the Rugbiean in our membership newsletter”.
Zach grew up hearing tidbits of the Pennsylfawnisch Deitsch dialect spoken by three of his four grandparents; one was a Mennonite, another Lutheran and the third Amish.
As Zach tells it: “I had always heard tidbits of the dialect still spoken among my older relatives, but never actually learned the language. In college, I got interested in folk culture and folklife studies and discovered that one of the leading professors in the field of folklife studies, Don Yoder, studied almost exclusively the Pennsylvania Dutch, and started the Kutztown Pennsylvania Dutch Folk Festival, which I worked at for several years. My minor in my undergrad work became Pennsylvania German Studies and I learned the language as part of it. I even belong informally to Groundhog Lodge #1, and was asked to join their board shortly before leaving Pennsylvania. The Groundhog Lodges are a group of Odd Fellow or Knights of Columbus type fraternal organizations which a purpose of preserving the language and culture.”
Read below for our Question and Answer session with Zach:
Q: What are the special skills you bring to Rugby as an interpreter of history?
A: My special skills in interpretation lay in my interest in living history. Essentially, Living History is a method for interpretation through doing and demonstrating, not just talking about history. This doesn’t mean that everyone needs to be doing some first person acting out of a specific character. However, I find it the most fascinating, fun, and engaging way to teach!
Some of the recent research coming out on interpretation in the museum studies field is showing that often, the fact-date-name style of interpretation is really becoming ineffective. People want to know more about a story than they do about the dates. It is really about appreciating the essence of a place, person, or event. I completely agree with such ideas and feel that demonstrative and engaging living history principles are the best ways to make people grasp the essence of a place!
Q: What are your passions regarding history?
A: My main passions are in the social and personal history of the United States, and material culture. I have always been more interested in the everyday people of the past- how they lived, how they thought, how they dressed, etc. Hence, my passion in interpreting history comes in understanding the day to day life of an area, something I think is extremely interesting here in Rugby, where Thomas Hughes envisioned a utopian agricultural society composed of gentrified British young men.
Q: Now that you know more about Rugby’s history-how do you feel about being the main caretaker of its legacy?
A: Overwhelmed and excited. There is a lot of Rugby- history, buildings, people, events, work, land- to be tasked with caring for here. I am constantly learning new things, reading more about the place, and every time falling more in love with this place and its people! It makes me ecstatic that I get to be the leader in maintaining such a wonderfully preserved, and unique historic site. Rugby really is unlike any other place I have ever been to or learned about and I get to be a major part of it.
Q: Were you surprised by anything you learned about Rugby since you moved here?
A: Yes, the shear amount of love and passion shared by all the residents, volunteers, and staff of Rugby for both this town and this historic site. I have seen plenty of volunteer groups, but never have I seen a group so passionate about the welfare and care of a place like this. Having worked with struggling volunteer corps, it makes me appreciate just how well established our current volunteer group is, and makes me that much more appreciative of their efforts and help.
Q: What are your goals for Rugby’s future?
A: If I had to put a summarizing tagline on my goals it might be: “Stability for Sustainability”. I believe that Historic Rugby has some of the most extensive and unique assets that can assist us in meeting fiscal needs. We need to understand how those assets can best work for us, to bring us the best ability to thrive financially. Thus, we can create an environment where our fiscal assets can create financial stability in an effort to further sustain the future of this site. It will take a lot of work, creativity, input, evaluation, and constant striving for betterment to make it happen, but I believe we can do so. Rugby really is a hidden gem, and it’s my goal that we’ll succeed by letting everyone know we are here.
Q: What do you think your BEST leadership skills are?
1. Insistence on a team environment; Organizations cannot be about an individual, including myself, that’s why they are organizations. Instead, I feel that everyone involved here at Rugby has something to offer and bring to the benefit of Historic Rugby. Everyone must be able to play the part and carry out the responsibilities they have.
2. Not accepting success: That might sound strange and almost the opposite of what one would like from a business. I believe that success is great, it is important and necessary. But, I do not believe in getting comfortable with success. There is always something that can be done better, different, and more efficiently. By getting comfortable with success, we become indifferent to problems and the fact that that level of success is not always going to be there. It keeps an organization better ready to deal with the low times when they are not comfortable with success.
3. Evaluation, Evaluation, Evaluation: I also believe that just because something-a fundraising effort, event, lecture, etc-did not work out the way you wanted, doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea, nor can it succeed. Perhaps it just needs some tweaking and preparation. Hence, I believe that every activity we do as an organization has the potential to be successful. It is just a matter of evaluating the results until we find a marketing strategy, timing, set of events, etc. that will make the effort work. The only way to do that is evaluation.
Q: Is there anything you want to say to the members of HRI or to the community members of Rugby?
A: I am both delighted and honored to be a part of Historic Rugby and I thank everyone for opening their arms to my family and me. Historic Rugby is both a challenge and a delight to me, but one which I am proud to be able to work with. We hope to be a part of the Rugby community for years to come!