The New York State Equal Rights Heritage Center (ERHC) in Auburn is celebrating its 5th anniversary this month.
Courtney Kasper is the center’s Visitor Experience Manager. Speaking with Finger Lakes News Radio, she said the center serves as a central hub for those exploring the history of the Finger Lakes and beyond.
“We’re kind of this one-stop shop,” Kasper said. “Even though we are in the City of Auburn, we’re promoting not only the city, the county, the region, but the state as well. You can see that in the events that we promote. You can see that in the brochures that we have.”
Kasper added that, when people come to the center, staff can gauge visitors’ interests and guide them to nearby sites such as the Women’s Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls.
Aside from welcoming visitors, the ERHC also provides literature about the area to other welcome centers across the state, letting prospective travellers learn about sites like the Tubman Home and Fort Hill Cemetery in the hopes that they’ll visit the Finger Lakes.
The center opened on November 13, 2018, and saw 22,500 visitors. 2019 saw similar numbers; however, the COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted the site with just over 4,000 people visiting in 2020.
Kasper said the ERHC persevered and adapted to the challenges of the pandemic. They created self-guided tours of the center guests could take. They also introduced Harriet Tubman’s Lantern Trail, a wayfinding exhibit that guides people to historic sites throughout the city.
According to Kasper, the ERHC is bouncing back. 2021 saw approximately 7,000 visitors and in 2022 11,000. 2023 is on track to surpass the previous year.
What does the future hold for the 25 South Street location? Kasper hopes to update the ERHC’s exhibits to reflect national events and their impact on communities, both local and statewide. For example, in 2020, the center played host to protests after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Another project in the works is the creation of a single pass that could be purchased at the ERHC that would allow visitors entry into various locations such as the Cayuga Museum, Seward House, and Willard Memorial Chapel.
To mark its 5th anniversary, the center will hold a special celebration on November 15.