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Monday, May 10th, 2010

Museum will present both sides of Indian wars

By William Kincaid

Bruce Scott and Ben Osterholt from Fort Electric measure track lighting in the m. . .

FORT RECOVERY - Extensive renovations at the Fort Recovery State Museum are nearing completion.
Bill Mahon, head of exhibit designs at the Ohio Historical Society (OHS), said the project aims to better tell both sides of the U.S./Indian wars. Previous exhibits at the museum focused more on the American side.
Mahon said the new exhibits will represent "the perfect storm of different cultures," which had different desires and goals at the time.
Volunteers from the community and the Fort Recovery Historical Society have been working since winter renovating the main floor of the facility. Work is expecteed to be completed early this summer. The museum remains open.
"So much has already been accomplished," museum director Nancy Knapke wrote in a recent newsletter. "The main part of the museum has been gutted and the new displays and exhibits are beginning to appear."
The new look includes the creation of authentic-type backgrounds for the displays, new carpet, repainted walls and new lighting and fans.
According to Mahon, the project is being financed through $100,000 in capital funds allocated by the state and from the Fort Recovery Historical Society.
"The people of the community know so much about their history and are really engaged in it," said Mahon, who added the renovation has been the high point of all the projects he has worked on this year.
"It's the reason I like to do the kind of work I do," he said.
The Ohio Historical Society collaborated with community groups and Eastern Shawnee Indians from northeastern Oklahoma to develop the new exhibits.
"In the past, our museum focused mostly on Anthony Wayne and the 1794 battle, but now equal attention and space will be devoted to the St. Clair Defeat of 1791," Knapke wrote.
Some other additions include a Civil War display with a chart listing every Fort Recovery area man who served in the war, and a Bob VanTrees display focusing on his paintings and books, including models of the planes he flew in World War II. New framework and posts for eight signs along the museum walkway also will be installed.
Many of the older items, including the museum's prehistoric artifact display, cannons and guns will remain.
Mahon said visitors will experience an overview of what the area looked like in 1791 and a timeline of events leading to St. Clair's defeat.
"The community is really proud of their story," he said.
Volunteer Chris Keller led an initiative to electronically inventory all of the museum's prehistoric artifacts, including arrowheads, pestles (grinding tools), pendants, gorgets (an article that covered the throat), beads and other items.
Using a computer software program called PastPerfect - purchased by the historical society - Keller input an image and various information of each museum artifact. PastPerfect then catalogues and manages the artifact information.
"It's been great," Mahon said. "Nancy and Helen (LeFevre) and Chris have really worked great with the community."

If you go:
The museum is open noon-5 p.m. weekends and Memorial Day in May; noon-5 p.m. daily from June to August; and noon-5 p.m. on the weekends and Labor Day in September.
For more information, visit
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