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Hayes museum closes for updates

To reopen in May for centennial celebrations

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    A flag from the campaign of 19th President Rutherford B. Hayes hangs in the presidential museum in Fremont. The museums closed Sunday after a ‘Goodbye 1968’ party for months of renovations to make the exhibits more interactive.

    THE BLADE/JETTA FRASER
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    Marian Grahl of Clyde and her grandson Brandon Grahl, 10, of Fremont view the Hayes Train Special at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museums.

    THE BLADE/JETTA FRASER
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    Bowling Green State University student Brenda Gillig, of Risingsun, Ohio, left, and her aunt, Suzette Pelton, of Bowling Green, look at an exhibit about the 19th president. The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museums closed on Sunday until May.

    THE BLADE/JETTA FRASER
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n2flag-1

A flag from the campaign of 19th President Rutherford B. Hayes hangs in the presidential museum in Fremont. The museums closed Sunday after a ‘Goodbye 1968’ party for months of renovations to make the exhibits more interactive.

THE BLADE/JETTA FRASER
Enlarge | Buy This Image

n2train-3

Marian Grahl of Clyde and her grandson Brandon Grahl, 10, of Fremont view the Hayes Train Special at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museums.

THE BLADE/JETTA FRASER
Enlarge | Buy This Image

FREMONT — In 1968, the neon light display showing where Rutherford B. Hayes campaigned for president was cutting-edge technology.

The company that manufactured the display used it as a prototype, said Christie Weininger, executive director of the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museums. But now, because the exhibits haven’t been updated since being installed decades ago, things are a bit “boring” and “dated.”

That’s how survey respondents described it, Ms. Weininger said.

“They didn’t sugar coat it,” she said.

The center closed its doors Sunday evening, after a “Goodbye 1968” party, and today, renovations costing more than $1 million get under way. All of the artifacts will be packed and stored while construction crews tear out and build new interactive displays for the memorabilia that illustrates the life and presidency of Mr. Hayes.

PHOTO GALLERY: ’Goodbye 1968’ at the Hayes presidential center

The museum will reopen May 28, for the facility’s centennial celebration, hosting a weekend-long “birthday” party.

With the renovations in place, the exhibits will better tell the story of Mr. Hayes, the 19th president of the United States. It also will tell the story of his wife, Lucy, Ms. Weininger said.

The changes are financed by an ongoing campaign to raise $1.3 million. 

The drive is still $100,000 short of that goal. If they exceed that, the library and museum have a “long, deferred to-do list” officials would like to begin addressing.

n2hayes

Bowling Green State University student Brenda Gillig, of Risingsun, Ohio, left, and her aunt, Suzette Pelton, of Bowling Green, look at an exhibit about the 19th president. The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museums closed on Sunday until May.

THE BLADE/JETTA FRASER
Enlarge | Buy This Image

For a decade, Ms. Weininger said, the center reduced staff, offering them part-time employment, and the museums were only open several days a week instead of daily. Museum officials have been able to use some of the money recently raised to return staff to full-time schedules and open the museum for an extra day each week.

The museum’s items were saved by Mr. Hayes, who once wrote in a letter that artifacts he was sending home from the Civil War should be saved for “our museum.” Ms. Weininger said the president wasn’t speaking about a museum in his name, but rather a general history museum.

“He was a collector all his life,” she said. “He really understood the power of the object.”

Some of the most popular items were on display in the entry leading to the museum, just beyond the gift shop. There, four figures dressed in Civil War uniforms are in a semicircle, depicting what might have gone on in time spent outside of combat.

Everything in the display belonged to President Hayes, Ms. Weininger said, including a blue Union Army coat with a bullet hole in one sleeve from where he was shot. Visitors also can see where a tear in the coat’s sleeve was stitched back together after a surgeon cut the jacket to treat the wounded Mr. Hayes.

When the new exhibits go on display, many of the regular artifacts will be back on display, but items that have been out “for a long time” will be back for guests to see. The space will be “brighter and lighter” with some fake walls coming down to expose long-covered windows.

When the museum reopens for its centennial, the weekend long celebration will include performances by the Ohio State University marching band, a beard contest (Mr. Hayes had a beard, so it seemed to be a natural tie-in), a formal ceremony, and a barbecue.

Contact Taylor Dungjen at tdungjen@theblade.com, or 419-724-6054, or on Twitter @taylordungjen.

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