The Wood County Historical Center near Bowling Green is set to welcome flocks of visitors on Saturday to view the tweaks made to exhibits to keep the past alive and relevant to the present.
The Blade/Lori King
BOWLING GREEN — Spring cleaning — dust, buff, sweep — is coming to a conclusion in a poor house, rich in history.
Flocks of visitors, and a few “Can I pet them?” real-life lambs, are expected to stop by this weekend as the Wood County Historical Center & Museum spins into action with demonstrations in its newly remodeled log cabin, built for the Buck family in 1865 near what are known now as Buck and Lime City roads.
The cabin, moved to the center’s property in 2007, features several structural improvements. The rustic structure depicts Wood County life in the 19th century. A fireplace, fine for pioneer cooking demonstrations, has been added and a freshly refinished fanny-model loom, made in Quebec, weaves in another educational component. Black Swamp Spinners Guild members will demonstrate how textiles were crafted on the machine.
A new Story Walk will be shown off for the first time too. The outdoor tour is designed to get people, particularly youngsters, outside and captivated in an interesting book, Warm As Wool — page by page on display boards — in which reading and walking blend nicely.
Inside the museum at 13660 County Home Rd., numerous transitions were in the works on a recent afternoon as curator Holly Hartlerode repeated, “Seven days to go — not in panicked tones, but certainly with a sense of urgency and excitement for the spring opener from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday.
Think of it as Wood County in motion, Kelli Kling, the museum’s marketing and events manager, said regarding exhibit changes.
And as the exhibits, tweaked and refreshed to keep the past alive and related to the present, are unveiled for the new season, staff is ever mindful that thousands of people lived here, and hundreds are buried in the site’s Pauper Cemetery.
One of the museum’s most popular exhibits shows how local history can have a nasty side. Inside a glass-topped case, a bottle displays severed fingers of Mary Bach, the murdered wife of Carl Bach. Other items include the homemade corn knife he used to hack her to pieces, pages of court transcripts, and the dark hood Bach wore as he took his last breath in 1883.
The rope, still with its noose, twists in another detail: Bach was the last person to die by hanging in Wood County.
The oh-my-gosh gruesomeness pulls in visitors, such as schoolchildren who come to the museum with classmates on field trips, then return with parents to show them death and drama up close and personal.
Another draw is the Lunatic Asylum, one of several buildings on the 50-acre site. It’s one of the last county infirmaries with nearly all its original structures.
More than 20 exhibit rooms highlight the interior of the 30,000 square-foot building where the poor and needy lived at one time.
Infirmaries and Poor Farms were common across the United States in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The Wood County Infirmary operated from 1869 to 1971, giving aid to the poor, the sick, the elderly, and the mentally ill, as well as orphans and homeless people. It reopened as a museum three years after its operational closing.
Wood County commissioners, the Wood County Historical Society, and the Wood County Park District manage the site.
There will be no fee to attend outdoor events Saturday, including an oil-derrick steam engine demonstration. A donation of $4 for adults and $1 for children is suggested for an indoor tour of the museum. After this weekend, the museum will be open for self-guided tours Tuesday through Friday and on weekends until October.
As therapy, the Poor House’s able-bodied residents worked at the self-sufficient institution. The site includes a corn barn, power house, chicken coop, ice house, slaughterhouse, and wash house. A pestilence house, where an iron lung is on display, has a new exhibit on the societal response to communicable disease.
Ms Kling said, “We show how the past relates to now, and how and why the past is relevant in everyday life,” such as comparing the Poor House to poverty and social services in today’s tough economy.
As the curious explore the site, they learn about the early days of the Great Black Swamp as well as more recent times with the new “I Love the ’80s: A Cultural Comparison of the 1880s and the 1980s” exhibit, highlighted by such iconic items as a pale blue My Little Pony, Atari video games, and interactive Trivial Pursuit boards.
A new exhibit on leisure activities includes — swoon goes here — Clark Gable, in a theater setting, complete with two pheasants shot by the Cadiz, Ohio-born actor, the last century’s box-office king.
“He used to hunt pheasants in this area,” Ms. Kling said.
In the cabin, Michael McMaster, education programs coordinator, noted furniture and other items would be arranged to maintain a large open space where schoolchildren, for instance, can gather and watch and listen.
Along a path, he pointed out one of the “oldest things in Wood County” — a two-ton, 1840s-vintage limestone mile marker moved to the museum grounds from Mud Pike, also known as Maumee & Western Reserve Road and now called U.S. 20.
“It was known as the worst road in the country at one time,” he said.
History repeating itself? People this spring can readily relate to rough roads, with so many pothole-riddled thoroughfares following northwest Ohio’s worst winter in decades.
Contact Janet Romaker at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6006.