Background: Richard Hourahan was not enthusiastic about history in his youth, and had primarily been interested in business, math and physical science. He studied chemistry for a short time as an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania before being drafted as a soldier into the Vietnam War. After he got back to the United States he resumed his studies to finish a degree in business school and a master’s degree in computer software. It was only after a career in software database and archival work that he began to pursue an interest in historical knowledge and preservation.
Occupation: Collections manager at the Queens Historical Society
Community Involvement: Hourahan’s presentations can be seen by audiences all throughout Queens in various locations, with an estimated 7,000 people having attended an exhibit he produced for the World’s Fair Anniversary Festival in 2014. The Queens Historical Society also takes history right to members of the public in other ways, with lessons in local classrooms and satellite exhibits with participating locations, such as Queens College.
Biggest Challenge: Hourahan says that creating programs to appeal to people of different communities and backgrounds is one of his biggest challenges, especially in Queens, largely known as the most culturally diverse community in the world. A big part of his job is breaking barriers and speaking to people of different languages and socioeconomic backgrounds, so he tries to tell stories that can the whole community can relate to by telling historical stories though various perspectives. He also focuses on connecting to his audience.
“They talk to you, they ask questions, they know stuff,” Hourahan said. “I find I have to get outside myself, and so I try to listen to people.”
Inspiration: “Queens is my biggest inspiration,” Hourahan said. “It is. You just have to go out and walk around.”