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March to the Museum marches on after study

In April 2011, Karen Schwartz, president of the Historical Society of Harrison County, visited the county board of commissioners to ask for support and for a commissioner to join the group on a fact-finding committee to start the process of creating a Harrison County museum.
Earlier this year, a feasibility study ‘ which included input from more than 75 local residents ‘ was funded with a grant from the Harrison County Community Foundation. The results of that study were announced this week and a planning committee will begin a course of action immediately.
Former Indiana First Lady Judy O’Bannon has agreed to serve as the honorary chairman for the March to the Museum movement.
Schwartz said the study, conducted by museum and cultural tourism consultants Brenda Myers and Betsy Jones of the Indianapolis area, suggested the Society use a phased-in approach leading up to the installation of a permanent exhibit. Each of the phases builds one on the other, she said, making for a pragmatic approach to the project.
‘We currently have popular programming and a very active group,’ Schwartz said. ‘But as a new organization, our financial resources are limited. This plan suggests we begin building credibility by increasing our public programming while planning for a permanent building hopefully by the sesquicentennial in 2016.’
The first phase would be the development of a downtown Corydon tour that would feature portable signage to tell a number of important countywide stories. Unlike a traditional walking tour, this option would use the downtown as a ‘stage’ for telling the bigger story through pop-up banner displays and trained docents on weekends with larger visitation. Visitors would take these 30-minute tours to get a sense of how Harrison County and Corydon developed. The goal of the tour would be to engage locals and visitors, acknowledge the bigger stories and start raising awareness of future potential projects.
The first phase would have an approximate cost of $3,325 to $4,125, and it would take approximately five months to complete and ready.
‘This program would complement what the state historic site is doing in telling the first state capital story,’ Schwartz said. ‘It’s just another way for visitors and residents to hear the whole story of Harrison County.’
The second phase would be the development of a Harrison County driving tour. The Harrison County Convention & Visitors Bureau would help with the project, which would be complete with audio recordings and signage. The bureau has laid some groundwork for the project, Schwartz said, and could be a way of attracting new visitors to the area.
The tour, which would take 11 months to complete at an approximate cost of $17,850, could also be set up as a podcast or via a CD narrative available online or at the Blaine H. Wiseman Visitor Center with a map.
The third phase of the ‘March to the Museum’ project would focus on a more permanent set of themed exhibit panels or, in addition to the guided tour panels, be placed in a location or series of locations in the downtown area. Themes could include the Civil War, agriculture, key historical figures, etc.
‘This is inexpensive, does not require human resources to man them and still allows us to tell the story,’ Schwartz said.
The third phase, at a cost of approximately $9,000, would take seven months to complete.
The final phase, which would be ongoing while the first three phases are taking place, would be a capital campaign and development of a more permanent museum.
The initial plan is for the restoration of the Posey House as a program center now, and perhaps a house museum later, the study suggests. The Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites had offered the house to the Society late in 2011 and the study suggests this would be a viable option in part because of the amount of land attached to the house which could serve as a basis for a future museum. However, the cost of a pristine restoration ‘ approximately $500,000 ‘ would be prohibitive at this point. At a meeting last month, the Historical Society of Harrison County’s board of directors voted to accept the Posey House ownership and has informed the state, so the acquisition process has begun.
‘The study looked at the Posey House and its adjoining land, the option of putting a museum in a downtown storefront or working with the public library on a cooperative project,’ Schwartz said. ‘The study committee will now review these options and make a recommendation and develop a plan.’
The study estimated that a fully functioning museum would cost approximately $108,000 annually to operate for staff and related expenses.
‘It seems feasible for the Historical Society of Harrison County to easily raise all but $65,000 of that total. The gap will be a challenge to overcome,’ the study reads. ‘Political will, shared vision and a phased-in process that builds trust and excitement are recommended to get the Historical Society of Harrison County to the goal that came through in all the community engagement sessions ‘ a desire for a traditional museum that can tell the stories of this community and grow over time.’
For more information, contact Schwartz at 738-2828 or 736-2373 or by e-mail at [email protected] or visit the Historical Society of Harrison County on Facebook.

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