By Rick Geffken
Eileen Chapman, director of The Bruce Springsteen Archives and Center for American Music at Monmouth University, will be the guest speaker at the 120th annual meeting of the Monmouth County Historical Association (MCHA).
Also, that evening, Meg Sharp Walton will be formally installed as new executive director of the group. The event will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 29 at the Two River Theater in Red Bank.
According to the MCHA website, “Chapman will talk about how the Archives started, how they came to Monmouth University, and how this turned into a partnership with Bruce Springsteen. She might even share tales of her days managing the Stone Pony.”
Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. for a reception at the theater located at 21 Bridge Ave. Chapman’s talk will follow a brief business meeting to elect new MCHA trustees, recap the 2018 fiscal year, and share plans for 2019. During the event, the general membership of the MCHA will have the opportunity to meet Sharp Walton who brings 15 years of extensive experience to the Freehold-based organization.
Springsteen, as just about everyone knows, left his hometown of Freehold, greeted the world from Asbury Park, and put the Stone Pony on the bucket list of an incalculable number of fans. Chapman promises to surprise even ardent aficionados of Springsteen with insider stories of his glory days at the Pony.
Those who simply can’t get enough Bruce bits will love “Springsteen: His Hometown,” scheduled to open at the MCHA’s 70 Court St. headquarters in September 2019. Chapman will be working closely with guest curator Melissa Ziobro, specialist professor of public history at Monmouth University, on the upcoming exhibition.
Sharp Walton left her most recent position in Philadelphia as executive director of the mansion and estate Glen Foerd on the Delaware. She is, however, no stranger to the Jersey Shore. Besides spending time visiting an aunt in Belmar when Sharp Walton was a young girl, her husband Jim Walton comes from the coastal resort town. She has fond memories of visiting local beaches from her girlhood home in Middlesex County.
Sharp Walton holds an M.A. from Temple University in American history/public history and has experience as a museum consultant and a curator. Steeped in the 350-plus-year history of Monmouth County, she fits her new MCHA position, well, like The Boss does with the E Street Band.
Sharp Walton waxed excitedly about the new position and returning to live in Belmar. “Seven of my husband’s eight siblings live here in Monmouth County, my daughter lives in Belmar, a nephew and his girlfriend do too, so we’re surrounded by family! Our goal has always been to live here at the Jersey Shore.”
She is equally enthused to be taking over the reins of the MCHA soon. She’ll succeed interim director Chuck Jones who took the job on a part-time basis for over a year while the MCHA Board of Trustees conducted its extensive search for the job. She is candid about her two primary goals: “I want to increase the earned revenue so we can further our mission of preservation. That’s key. It’ll bring guaranteed income and stability.
“Along with that,” she continued, “Reaching out far and wide into Monmouth County communities, something (that’s) in my DNA. An organization is stronger through diverse partnerships. You get to know people living here and their stories. It’s really important to make sure the association is telling the stories and capturing the history of all of Monmouth County.”
Sharp Walton also wants to ensure the organization continues with innovative initiatives and programs, similar to last year’s Super Storm Sandy exhibit. “We want to let people know how relevant history is to their lives and it’s really important to understand where they come from. And also, to preserve the historic integrity of Monmouth County through oral history.”
Sharp Walton is anxious to read and evaluate the recent Buildings Assessment Report concerning the several historic homes owned and maintained by the MCHA. She’ll meet soon with the MCHA Board of Directors to see how they “can make use of those buildings in a mission-related way that makes sure the homes are useful to the community and preserved and taken care of.”
That’s a big job. The MCHA is certain Meg Sharp Walton is just the right woman for that job.
This article was first published in the Feb.7-14, 2019 print edition of The Two River Times.
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