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Former nurse bids adieu to patients, tends to history

Susan McLane serving tea from a pot of the Victorian era. She’ll be presenting a program on the Titanic at the Brookside Museum in Ballston Spa on Sunday, April 15.

Susan McLane serving tea from a pot of the Victorian era. She’ll be presenting a program on the Titanic at the Brookside Museum in Ballston Spa on Sunday, April 15.

— “I started doing little miniature fashion shows. Oftentimes I wouldn’t have people for my fashion shows, I’d just have a dress form or two. And then I was wearing the outfits as well so that I would have several different examples of clothing to show. I understood then how you can get people interested in history by dressing in the period and recreating Victorian events. It really was my focus to get people interested in history,” she said.

A Schenectady native, McLane lived in New Hampshire until 1993 and then returned to the Capital District. She settled near Scotia where she opened an antique shop called Something Old, though it closed in 2000. She now lives in Johnstown and still does antique shows, however.

Over the years, her fashion shows developed into historical programs. Starting around 1991 she would give talks about 100 Years of Hats, for instance, to garden clubs and historical organizations. Her presentations were becoming popular and she was becoming well known as a dress collector. She has given presentations throughout the state and developed the walking tour for Ballston Spa in 2005, where she lived for five years.

“Nobody asked me to do it, I just came up with the idea,” she said.

McLane founded The Victorian Social Club in 1995. The club aims to get people involved with history, and some of the social etiquettes that surrounded the Victorian Era. She even teaches a 12-week course for children and uses tea parties as a teaching tool to provide a “hands on” experience.

“We’re losing the ability to be social and retain social skills,” she said of her motivation for teaching the course.

Another program is The Language of Flowers.

“I really focus on the secret meanings of flowers and how they were used in the Victorian Age,” she said.

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