The Matthews Heritage Museum opens June 8 and it’ll feature vignettes from the early 1900s about life in the town and surrounding region.
The museum is in the recently-restored turn of the century Massey Clark House on North Trade Street in the center of Matthews. It is a joint effort between the town, who provided almost $200,000 in tourism funds for the project, and the Matthews Historical Foundation. Some members of the Matthews Woman’s Club Service League and other area residents will volunteer as docents and in other capacities.
The museum began with a mayoral appointed task force that studied the idea, recommended its formation and selected a designer. Soon after, Paula Lester, Historical Foundation President, became the point person for the project that has been 18 months in the works.
“I’m so excited that our dream is about to become reality. I’m thrilled that we can finally open the doors and give the community the opportunity learn more about Matthews area history,” Lester said.
Barbara Taylor, former director of the High Point Museum, was recently hired to handle the day-to-day operations. She says it’s an impressive endeavor.
“The graphics and the people hired to implement the design are excellent. And there are some incredible pieces here to really give substance to the new museum,” Taylor said.
Many of the display pieces have been donated or are on loan by area residents.
Though the museum only contains a few rooms and a hall, visitors can get a good idea of what life was like several generations ago.
In the Early Commerce Room, visitors can see a portion of the 1909 teller cage that was an integral part of daily operations at the Bank of Matthews. In another corner they will find an authentic switchboard that was used to make calls, and listen to a narrative explaining early telephone and communication services. They also can learn about cotton and some of the early stores in the area through graphic panels and displays.
Just down the hall, the Lifestyles Room displays – including a spittoon, Hoosier Cupboard and old school desk – depict life in early 20th century homes and schools. A continuously running DVD, “Matthews Remembered,” shows on a screen above the fireplace featuring recollections and interviews with many of the town’s older residents..
Across the hall is the Community Room where visitors will discover an old pharmacy in one corner, and a doctor’s office in another. A screen above that fireplace features a running narrative of Outen Pottery, a local historic landmark.
A graphic panel highlights Sustar’s Pool, one of the first public swimming pools in the area, complimented by a mannequin wearing an original hand stitched, 1920s bathing suit that belonged to Lester’s grandmother.
“My grandmother, Mary Alice Townley, was born in 1896. Neither she nor my parents ever threw anything away. Maybe it was living through the Depression. I don’t think they had a lot of money, so when they got something, it was really special. She would be so thrilled, I think, with her bathing suit on display,” Lester said.
The hall is lined with panels showing the impact of the two World Wars on the Charlotte area, a brief summary of how the town evolved, the importance of the Crestdale Community and more. Two glass cases provide space for rotating displays that will be changed every few months.
“This is a great opportunity for children to see what life was like without electricity, when folks pumped water, chopped wood, and had ice delivered for their ice box,” Lester said.
“The past hundred years has seen astronomical changes in the way that people live, and it is our hope that when folks visit the Matthews Heritage Museum, they will leave with a new appreciation of what life was like for earlier generations.”
Melinda Johnston is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Melinda? Email her at email@example.com.
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