The town of Cornelius’ Historic Preservation Committee has started to develop a plan to create a town history museum.
While a museum room will open in the coming months on the ground floor of Town Hall, an actual museum facility will take much longer, officials say.
Committee members Thomas Mennillo and Kathryn McClelland will help coordinate a community effort to gather artifacts and research and record the town’s history.
They will seek the public’s help to create a process to identify people to interview, recruit and train interviewers, develop questions to ask and determine how to present everything alongside photos, maps and artifacts.
The Historic Preservation Committee, an advisory body appointed by the Cornelius Board of Commissioners, was directed to get the effort moving at the committee’s December meeting.
“Mayor Pro-Tem Woody Washam and Commissioner Jim Duke expressed interest in preserving the town’s history in some type of museum and encouraged HPC to start to … collect and house photographs, artifacts and oral histories,” Mennillo said.
“In the long term, the hope is that a history museum can open somewhere in the center of Cornelius,” Mennillo said. “But, for now, the first steps toward a vision for bringing Cornelius history to life are being taken by the town’s Historic Preservation Committee.”
While some memorabilia is displayed in Town Hall, Mennillo said, a history room would make a larger number of items available to the public.
That history room, expected to open this year, will be in a converted office opposite the town board’s meeting room, Mennillo said, while a long-term project is to create a history museum similar to Matthews’.
On March 7, committee members toured the Matthews Museum, a renovated 1880 Massey-Clark House, where they gathered input from Barbara Taylor, the museum’s director, and Paula Lester, a Matthews Historic Foundation board member.
The committee still must organize its findings from the visit, but members liked how the Matthews museum fit cohesively into the downtown area, Mennillo said.
“From our tour of the Matthews Heritage Museum, we learned that memorabilia and memories can be displayed attractively, safely, accessibly in even a small space,” Mennillo said. “We got an inkling of what’s involved in obtaining funds to open and sustain a museum; accepting donated and loaned items; and attracting and maintaining interest in the museum. And they pointed us toward information and organizations that exist to help at every step along the way.”
Becky Partin, Cornelius’ communication specialist, serves as the staff liaison and secretary to the Historic Preservation Committee.
“Commissioners Jim Duke and Woody Washam have expressed an interest in a history museum, but the town board has not discussed the matter,” she said. “The Historic Preservation Committee is just gathering information in case the town board does decide to pursue a museum or other alternative to store historic artifacts.”
In the meantime, the town will add a “history room” in Town Hall to accent and build upon the mural in Heritage Hall, Partin said.
“It is a small room across from the mural that will contain photos and some artifacts,” Partin said. “If the town board decides to move forward on the museum … we will gather estimates at that time.”
Starting a history room is one way to help us gauge public interest, said Partin, who said the project likely would be privately funded. “This seed of an idea is just beginning to germinate,” Partin said.
For details on the effort to create a town history museum, call 704-892-6031.