Friday, December 18, 2020

Mormon Trail mural on the move ...

It's not been a good year for museums small and large for obvious reasons --- including the Lucas County Historical Society. Ordinarily open by appointment only during the winter when staff hours are limited, it's been more than a year since our museum campus has been fully accessible. Hopefully that will change during 2021.

But that doesn't mean that lots hasn't been going on behind the scenes, including considerable activity yesterday when the Mormon Trail mural that has dominated for many years a wall in the Perkins Gallery --- the first room that visitors generally enter --- moved to a more spacious home in the Crist Gallery.

The mural was painted by Ron Bingham, commissioned by Nick and Deb Cattell for the visitor center they operated for a time on U.S. 34 west in what now is the main building of the Country Cabins complex. When the visitor center closed, they donated the mural to the museum. The Mormon Trail is of great importance in Lucas County's earliest Euro-American period, beginning in 1846, and the mural is very useful in helping us to tell that story.

The move has been planned for months, but we waited until Karoline Dittmer, who led our reorganization efforts earlier in the year, came home on holiday break from her PhD program at the University of Illinois at Chicago to get under way. Board member Mike Smith was enlisted to head the technical end of the operation, assisted by Patrick Dittmer and Karoline. Office manager Kathleen Dittmer and I were there, too (watching other people work is a hobby of mine).

We opened a generous display area in the Christ Gallery by, first, moving a semi-permanent partition elsewhere, then relocated into storage another large item previously displayed in that area. Then it was time to detach the mural in one gallery and reattach it to the wall in the other, an operation that went smoothly. 

So now the mural has room to breathe and we have room to display with it related artifacts that haven't been displayed very coherently until now.

This is almost the final phase of clearing the long north wall of the Perkins Gallery, which now will be repaired and repainted. Earlier, an incoherent display of firearms was moved into a new Vredenburg Gallery military collection annex.

At some point during 2021, a new Hy-Vee related installation, professionally developed in part with a major grant from the Vredenburg Foundation, will be installed against that refurbished wall. So there are still exciting days ahead --- and we hope we'll be open by midyear and able to show off everyone's hard work.

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