Dianne Frances D. Powell
TERRE HAUTE —
“We’re moving into the second life … of the historical museum,” said Marylee Hagan, executive director of the Vigo County Historical Society and Museum.
This second life will involve a new location, bigger space, expanded exhibits, new technology, among other “dreams and aspirations” that Vigo County Historical Society and Museum officials have for the museum as it continues to tell Vigo County’s story.
The plans, however, are not set in stone, and the move — which Stiffy Green will be joining, of course — could still be a little over a year away. Officials also plan to seek feedback from the public about what they want to see in the new museum. They hope to launch a public campaign in the spring.
In 2012, museum officials announced the purchase of the four-story building that used to house the Glidden Furniture store, at 929 Wabash Ave., as the new home for the museum.
“We’re going to have a new museum on that site, and we’re really excited about that,” Hagan said. “We’ll be able to offer so much to the community with the expanded space.”
The museum is currently at 1411 S. Sixth St. in Terre Haute.
“We have been in this site for 57 years now, and we have been kind of overshadowed by the house itself, the Victorian era,” Hagan said. “So we’re really excited to move into the 21st century.”
“And one of the things that we’re really looking forward to is putting in place technology,” she said. “We know we will have technology of all kinds, it will be exciting.”
It will be a move from a 15,000 square-foot house to a property of about 40,000 square feet, Hagan said.
Telling Vigo County’s story
The artist renderings of what the new museum could look like showed a very different historical museum from what Vigo County residents know today.
“We can tell the stories that we have to tell so much better in this space,” Hagan said, of the new location.
Because the current home of the museum is so “iconic,” said Susan Tingley development director, many people might just picture in their heads the same exhibits and rooms put into a new building, but that’s not going to be the case, she said.
“We’re wanting to enhance everyone’s learning experience about the county,” Tingley said.
One of the first things that visitors may see upon entering the new museum is a soda fountain.
“Those people who have experienced one, I think, will be excited about it, and those who have never been to a soda fountain can experience that,” Hagan said.
The soda fountain area will also be used for an exhibit that tells the story of the Coca-Cola bottle, which was born in Terre Haute.
The first floor may also have a reception area, toy exhibit, gift shop and a brewery exhibit, another important industry in Terre Haute’s past.
The second floor will house more exhibits and may include an area called “Historic Hauteans,” which will tell the stories of famous people and other local folks who contributed to Vigo County’s development; a textiles exhibit; a military room; a timeline of county history; and a large area for an exhibit on school and sports history.
Mr. Stiffy Green will be in the legends area of that floor, Hagan said with a smile.
“The third floor we’re really excited about because this floor is going to give us an opportunity that we’ve not experienced here at all,” Hagan said, of the contrast between the new location and the current museum.
They hope to have a 130-seat auditorium and a “events/flex space” for meetings and traveling exhibits.
“The auditorium is going to open up an opportunity for us to have more [educational] programming,” such as speakers, Hagan said. “We’ve been so limited here with what we can do for programming because of the space.”
The other part of the third floor may be an archival/research area that visitors can use for research.
Currently, officials said, the research area consists of a small desk in a small room.
It will be available for use by the public and by the museum, Hagan said.
The lower level will be dedicated to telling the story of the county’s rich transportation history.
The new building and its site have historic value that museum officials found appealing, but Hagan said the things inside the building also have stories to tell.
For example, the columns inside the building are iron posts made by a Terre Haute company.
Although some may remember the Glidden Furniture store building with “it’s little nooks and crannies,” Hagan said, “we’re envisioning … open space to work with.”
The building has been a commercial property since it was built in 1898, so when the museum moves in, it will be reclassified as assembly, Hagan said.
“So we’re gonna have to bring it up to state code for assembly,” Hagan continued.
The move to the new building will not only solve space and storage issues but also allow for more technology and educational programs to be offered at the museum, officials said.
It will also be more accessible for the elderly and those with a disability.
The future site of the museum will allow it to be a part of the renaissance happening downtown, Hagan said. “And I’m excited for us to be a part of it.”
The home that currently hosts the museum on Sixth Street was built in 1868 by downtown Terre Haute business man, William Sage, according to museum files. The death of his wife prompted the sale of the house in 1876 to Henry Robinson, an auctioneer.
In 1905, the property was purchased by Clemens Nagel, whose family lived in the house for 52 years. In 1957, the Vigo County Historical Society purchased the house from Marcella Nagel Lundgren.
“The Victorian Lady has served us very well,” Hagan said, referring to the house, but “our future history begins now.”
Tribune-Star Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or firstname.lastname@example.org.