50 years and Just Beginning
As far as history museums go, the Marion County Historical Society (MCHS) is young, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. This milestone year has been a busy one with one of the most successful celebrations being the creation of the exhibit 1969, highlighting the year when MCHS first began.
The 1969 exhibit tells the story of life in Marion and world events and activities that influenced Marion. Many of the social aspects of life in Marion are represented like “Shooting the Loop” and ice skating on the McKinley pond to games played with the family. The 1969 living room depicts everyday activities, like fashion, home furnishings, television shows and favorite music of the time. Not only is the national music scene depicted, but with the help of MCHS volunteers like Tom Photos, the local music scene and groups that performed in Marion are brought to life.
The exhibit is throughout the atrium area and has been very popular with the visitors. Brandi Wilson, the MCHS director shared, “It has been great to see so many families come in and share their own memories of this time period. It is a way for multiple generations to relate and compare their lives growing up in Marion. There has been a great deal of nostalgia shown over this exhibit”.
Creating the 1969 exhibit had its challenges. Producing the exhibits was difficult as the museum’s collections didn’t have many items from that year. The staff had to raid family member’s attics and visit thrift shops. This made them think about their on-going collections procedures and the importance of saving items that many might not consider historic yet, but will someday be part of future museum exhibits.
1969 also tells the story of the tough parts of the year, like the Vietnam War and its impact on Marion. Volunteers Chuck and Annette VanVorhis helped set up this part of the exhibit. When The Wall That Heals Memorial exhibit (the half-size replica of the Vietnam War Memorial) came to Marion this summer, it was a nice connection to this part of the exhibit. MCHS is played a part in the Wall tour in Marion. The mementos left by visitors to the Wall were carefully collected by the MCHS staff and volunteers and brought back to the museum to be part of their collections.
There is still time to visit the 1969 exhibit, which will close on December 15. Next year, look for a new exhibit depicting the 1920s in Marion County. It was a busy time with women getting to first vote, Prohibition. Harding as President and the Roaring Twenties.
1969 wasn’t the only activity held during this anniversary year. The Marion County Historical Society is actively working to fundraise to match a couple of important grants. One will fund the Mary Ellen Withrow Oral History Project. The project will record Withrow’s life in Marion, the various offices she held here to her time as the first woman United States Treasurer. It is an extensive project and MCHS is trying to raise $13,000 for a matching grant from the Marion Community Foundation.
Another fundraising oral history project is Marion Voices, gathering the stories of the community’s African American population and other diverse residents, from the 1960s to today. The final fundraising project is matching funds for an Ohio Arts Council grant to interview folk artists in the county.
Brandi Wilson shared, “The purpose of all of the oral histories, along with the other projects MCHS does, is to bring history to life and show it is not only the stories of famous people, but our stories as well. It is important to show that history is more than just textbooks. It is our lives and important to share so that everyone can understand and be proud of our community.” That is what MarionMade! is.