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Published: Monday, 4/29/2013

Fulton Co. Historical Society mulls new museum

BY KELLY McLENDON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
 The Fulton County Historical Society  has been discussing the possibility of a new facility to replace this museum in Wauseon.  The Fulton County Historical Society has been discussing the possibility of a new facility to replace this museum in Wauseon.
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WAUSEON — John Swearingen, Jr., envisions many community-building amenities when he talks about a new building for the Fulton County Historical Society’s museum.

“We would like to be kind of a hub also for anybody that’s visiting the county — to know what to do and see. There is no visitor bureau for this county,” the society’s director said.

Mr. Swearingen and the board of the historical society have been discussing the possibility of a new facility for the museum’s collection.

“We’re working on a strategic plan right now, to show what we could be,” he said.

A facility of the caliber he is hoping to emulate would require at least three full-time employees. Since the collection contains many letters, diaries, photographs, and personal histories relevant to the county, he said an employee specifically for research and archives would be essential. Another employee for marketing and events, in addition to the curator, would round out the prospective staff list.

But finding a location for the facility takes time and consideration because of the collection’s delicate condition. The historical museum is in a 1868 Romanesque Revival brick building on Monroe Street in Wauseon.

“Artifacts require humidity and climate control. We’re more worried about the objects than anything. We’re not talking about taking over an old building,” Mr. Swearingen said. “I’ve been in the museum business since 1988 and I just know all of the pitfalls of an old building.”

Outgrowing the current facility is another issue that has prompted the change. He expects that programs for the community would increase.

“We’re looking for a multipurpose space that could be used for meetings and events,” Mr. Swearingen said.

Carl Buehrer, president of the Fulton County Historical Society, said the current building is definitely lacking.

“We feel that we are kind of overcrowded. Our old building is not handicapped-accessible. We have a lot of displays on the second floor and the rooms are small,” he said.

Creating a schedule of alternating exhibits would benefit the museum’s visitors, Mr. Swearingen said.

The historical society recently hired a grant writer, who the board hopes will be able to bring in grant money that will assist with the facility change if the board proceeds.

Mr. Swearingen said the society is working with other historical societies in the area, and trying to form a collaborative operation to share volunteers and equipment.

“They’ve been very receptive to the idea,” he said. “We all can’t afford to buy the fancy equipment.”

But the director is also aware that times are changing and exhibits will have to be modified to stay timely.

“A different audience now,” Mr. Swearingen said, citing today’s students’ heavy use of iPads.

Mr. Buehrer said the decision on whether a new building is feasible is expected later this year, although the move could take years.

“We’re just investigating,” he said. “We haven’t made any type of commitment. Really, we’re like most museums, we’re struggling like crazy to keep going and we’re really, really working on what we can do to sustain ourselves.”

The board has also been talking to the three Fulton County commissioners about the potential move.

Commissioner Paul Barnaby said the commissioners always have supported the society’s endeavors.

“It is our belief that our heritage as Fulton County citizens is very important,” he said.

Contact Kelly McLendon at: kmclendon@theblade.com or 419-724-6522 or on Twitter @KMcBlade.



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