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People on the Move: Bernadette Rogoff
06/27/2008 - By Gayle Davis
Bringing monmouth memories back to lifeFrom the time Bernadette Rogoff attended college in Riverdale, New York, and participated in an internship at the Hudson River Museum, she knew she would one day be a curator. After sending out a few résumés and interviewing with Director Dr. Lee Ellen Griffith in June 1992, Rogoff was offered the job as Curator of Collections for the Monmouth County Historical Association…and the rest was “history.” She and her husband Marc moved to Ocean Township, and spent countless hours just driving around and exploring the area to become familiar with this part of the Garden State. “For some reason Monmouth County felt very comfortable.” The Monmouth County Historical Association has been in existence since 1898, so when it comes to gathering background research for a collection, Rogoff has plenty of resources at her fingertips. “We have over 30,000 objects here that I take care of,” she says. Bernadette also oversees five historical houses in Monmouth County: the Covenhoven house in Freehold, the Holmes-Hendrickson house in Holmdel, the Allen house in Shrewsbury, and the Taylor Butler home and Marlpit Hall in Middletown.
When she started working with the association, one of Rogoff’s responsibilities was to establish a “Changing Exhibitions Program” at the Main Museum in Freehold. Three exhibition spaces are located there and include 18th through 20th century collections. So far, she says, there have been 30 exhibitions, but the Karagheusian Rug Mill is her favorite. “It was one of the largest privately run carpet companies in the world from 1906 to 1961. They even did Radio City Music Hall when it opened in the 1930s in New York City.” Rogoff adds, “Many local people worked at the mill, including Bruce Springsteen’s father, Douglas…he was a ‘Creel Boy.’” She says this exhibit’s opening also served as an emotional reunion for people who worked in the mill or whose family members did.
The most recent collection being featured is a tribute to the Jersey Shore. Called “By the Sea,” it looks at the development of Monmouth County resorts in the 18th and 19th centuries. “We talk about the earliest uses of the shore, starting with the Lenni-Lenape Indians; we also talk about the development of the resort towns such as Long Branch, known internationally at that time as the “American Brighton.” The museum showcases all sorts of memorabilia from Ocean Grove, Asbury Park, Sea Girt, and many other shore towns. “We are able to bring in a lot of our historical clothing…men wore two-piece bathing suits in the 1940s!” Another part of the shore exhibit features Monmouth County shipwrecks and the development of lifesaving at the Jersey Shore. Rogoff says exhibits usually change once a year, but the Jersey Shore collection will run for 2 years because of a couple of large shows being planned. Many parts of the exhibits are donated personal artifacts; everything from old photographs to silver to signage and everything in between can be found here, and they are all displayed and carefully protected by Rogoff and the association.
One of the things Rogoff has enjoyed doing on her own that is related to her job is researching early 19th century artist Micah Williams, to whom she is drawn; many of his works were done in Monmouth County and included portraits of local doctors, lawyers, farmers, and businessmen. Her interest in this extraordinary folk artist led her to write new biographical information about him that was published in the Princeton Art Record.
When she isn’t busy trying to help preserve Monmouth County’s rich history, Bernadette likes to spend time with her family. She enjoys going to the beach, bird watching, and gardening with her two children, and she and Marc love hiking, camping, and canoeing at Deal Lake.
Favorite restaurant: La Nonna Piancone’s
Favorite musical group: Fleetwood Mac
Favorite Movie: Enchanted April
Pet peeve: dirty laundry
Three people you would like to have dinner with: my husband, Marc, my mom (who passed away), and Micah Williams
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