Museum preserving past, needs help raising money

When the Mooresville Museum was officially organized, it lacked a home.

Within a few years, the nonprofit association moved into the historic Charles Mack and Sons Wholesale Co. building on 132 E. Center Ave., leased from the town for a nominal fee.

Now museum members have another dream: They envision a renovation of the building with modern galleries and an HVAC system.

On a cool Thursday morning, electric heaters warmed three front rooms filled with memorabilia. Volunteers Sandy Mayhew and Carolyn Whitlow were dressed to work in a storage area, once a refrigerated storeroom. One day, board members John Sparrow and Wayne Whitlow said, the space will be accessible for public viewing.

For now, artifacts reside in display cases. In one room, mannequins dressed in nurses' uniforms of an earlier era stand among medical instruments.

A watchman's time clock reminds visitors of the area's connection to cotton and Burlington Mills. Former employees donated many pieces.

Lack of usable space is a problem. Reconfiguring and renovating the structure would provide open, flowing areas. Adams and Associates Architecture conducted a study to bring the museum up to building code standards. Wheelchair-accessible restrooms, an elevator and emergency exits are needed.

A video shows dramatic changes with an addition to house the elevator and emergency exits. The empty upstairs would become offices, a conservation lab and storage space.

The fire department's vintage fire truck is stored in a back room. With the renovation, the truck and other large objects would move to permanent exhibits.

"The cost estimate is slightly south of $2million," Wayne Whitlow said.

The board is struggling with ways to raise money, and most board members lack fundraising experience. Andy Poore, town liaison and ex officio board member, is the board's only professional. Rachel Bonney, a retired anthropology and museum studies professor, will help.

"It takes money to raise money," Wayne Whitlow said. "We must figure out how to tap available resources," he said. "Until we renovate, we can't grow."

No one is paid. The town pays for electric power, but the volunteer organization is responsible for the phone bill. Money is raised through contributions, membership fees and the sale of discarded library books.

Soon the board needs to address three upgrades. Bids have been received to install a security system and restore the Charles Mack sign to its original colors. A third project is to repaint the directional arrow at Main and Center.

The grassroots organization began with nothing. Now, catalogued items have a home, and parts of Mooresville's past are preserved. Much remains to be done.

Sparrow said more photographs and documents are needed.

The museum is open 6-8 p.m. Friday and Dec. 17 for a display of miniatures. Regular museum hours are 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on the first and third Saturdays of each month.

For details call 704-663-1873 or visit