Reflecting on 2019 at GCHS

Dr. Rachel Lewis, Museum Director

2019 was a banner year for the Grant County Historical Society. Our major achievement? The opening of the Grant County History Museum. Taking an empty store front and making it into a museum is not easily done. For 3 months in 2019, I poured all my time and energy into making that museum happen. What resulted was the new Grant County History Museum (GCHM). It was a monstrous push that involved a lot of long days and the help of some extraordinarily dedicated volunteers. I could not have done it without them.

Renee Heimdal did all of our graphic design for the project, including this logo.

With the new museum complete and open to the public, I’d like to take this opportunity to explain to you my thinking about the museum. I used three objectives for this new museum and made all my decisions about the museum with these things in mind.

1) Visitors leave with a sense of the history of Grant County and what makes it unique
2) Create a space that could be self-guided 3) Create a structure for the museum that would allow us to easily add in or switch out collection items as desired.

Joe Greer’s Chaps in the Arts & Entertainment portion of the museum.

These criteria led me to select items for display that had a known story connected to Grant County. If the item didn’t tell a story about Grant County, it did not make it into the first rounds of moving. Having only been in my position a year, I am sure there are items in our collection that I overlooked. That is one of the advantages of the way the museum is structured. We can easily add items into the space without totally upending the exhibits.

The structure of the museum is based on 8 broad categories that the museum committee chose: Land, People, Arts & Entertainment, Education, Industry, Medicine, Military, and Agriculture. Each has collection items on display as well as interpretive panels. There are stories of Grant County that are not represented in GCHM simply because we don’t, as far as I am aware, have the material culture (stuff) to go with those stories. As soon as we have that material culture, those stories can be added.

Agriculture section of the museum

The large interpretive panels mentioned above cover the broad history of that theme in Grant County. Visitors will have the option to guide themselves through the museum at their own pace – whether that be 20 minutes or two hours. Nothing can replace a guided tour, but having a self-guided option may help with visitation and recruiting new volunteers; including you, dear reader.

As always, none of this work would be possible without your continued support. The time and talents of our volunteers as well as your financial support all go to supporting our mission to enrich lives by collecting, preserving, and sharing the history of Grant County.

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As I am sure you have noticed, this post is about the Grant County History Museum and not the Cunningham Museum. Back in September of 2019, the GCHS Board voted to change the name of the museum to the Grant County History Museum as they felt the previous name did not reflect all that was in the museum and visitors were not coming to the museum as they were unsure of what it was. With a new location, it felt an appropriate time to reconsider the name of the museum.