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The Scarlet & Black

Historical Society opens gift shop

The Historical Society, located at 1125 Broad St., worked throughout the winter months to renovate the Historical Museum and outfit a new gift shop. Photo by Keli Vitaioli.

The Grinnell Historical Museum is now open for its spring hours after being closed for the winter months. During this time, the museum underwent some small renovations and a cleaning and reorganization process in order to prepare for new, upcoming exhibits and events.

Through the minor renovations, the board of the museum was able to consider what pieces should be featured more prominently throughout the museum, a late-Victorian style house at 1125 Broad St. One such piece was Josiah B. Grinnell’s original Wooton desk from 1877, an ornate desk gifted to J.B. Grinnell for his 25th wedding anniversary. During the winter, the desk was moved into a more central area in the front parlor, which also serves as the space for rotating exhibits. Currently, the main display in this room is a collection of Victorian beaded and metal mesh purses from the late 1800s through the 1950s.

“We’ve always had [the desk] open, and in order to move it, we had to close it. So when we closed it, we noticed all this beautiful … inlay work that we hadn’t noticed before. … So we’re highlighting it a little differently this year, and we’ve moved it to a much more central location,” said Ann Igoe, vice-president of the Grinnell Historical Museum board.

In addition, located in the “nook” right below the main stairwell, where the Wooten desk used to sit, there is now a small gift shop. Visitors can purchase a selection of books about the history of Grinnell as well as a variety of cards featuring the nature photography of Cornelia Clarke. In the future, there may be some historical items from the museum available for purchase at the gift shop.

Other renovations included installing new rugs and carpet throughout the house and redoing the floors upstairs. The museum also replaced some display cabinets, such as those housing a variety of Civil War memorabilia, with newer versions with locks. The museum’s collection of cameras also found a new home in display cabinets upstairs in the medical room, the house’s original smoking room, that now displays a variety of medical items, including a foot-operated dental drill.

As a whole, the museum board is hoping to continue organizing and modernizing the museum in future years. The museum, however, relies entirely on volunteers from the community, so the intensity of renovation projects can depend upon volunteers’ availability.

“We’re all volunteer, so it isn’t a paid position here at all. We have a good board that’s very interested in being a good museum, so that makes it fun,” Igoe said.

Another goal is to utilize technology more in order to display the museum’s collections online. In progress right now is the Digital Grinnell photo project, and student interns this summer will help create videos for the museum’s YouTube channel in addition to their research.

In the next few months, the board hopes to host a garden party in collaboration with the College, a gathering involving sports such as croquet and badminton, music and hand-churned ice cream. The museum is now open to the public Saturdays and Sundays from 2 to 4 p.m., and will be open for additional days each week during the summer.

The Historical Society, located at 1125 Broad St., worked throughout the winter months to renovate the Historical Museum and outfit a new gift shop. Photo by Keli Vitaioli.
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