Museum night offers hands-on history lesson

Have you ever wished you had a time machine that would allow you go back in history and meet famous people from the past?

I, for one, am still waiting for “the science guys” to come up with one. Until they do, Night At The Museum is the next best thing.

The seventh edition takes place on March 8 in one of the most historical settings in our community, the Heritage Center of Clark County. Beginning at 6 p.m., small groups of guests will take guided tours of the museum.

Visitors will have the chance to interact with the likes of Orville Wright, A.B. Graham, Lillian Gish, Simon Kenton, George Rogers Clark, O.S. Kelly, Shawnee Chief Black Hoof and even President and Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt.

In addition, frontiersmen and sister suffragettes will mix with farmers from the 1920s as the stories of Clark County are told by those who left their mark on our community, state and nation and once used the artifacts on display in the museum. Dancers will grace the entry hall.

The infamous Fair at New Boston “Ratcatcher” will make sure that no “vermin” will bother visitors. Uniformed soldiers from the Revolutionary War to the Cold War will inhabit the military section.

A reception wraps up the evening in the Hellmuth Rotating Gallery on the second floor.

My experience with the event started several years ago, when I was asked to portray Gus Sun, the booking agent for world-renowned entertainers like Gish, the Marx Brothers, Mae West, Bob Hope, Eddie Cantor, W.C. Fields and Burns and Allen. Sun built the Regent Theatre on South Limestone Street in downtown Springfield, and when he had his office there, it was one of the busiest Western Union telegram sites in the country.

The evening is certainly both educational and entertaining for people of all ages. And it provides a wonderful opportunity to see the Clark County Historical Society’s excellent collection of artifacts and exhibits.

Night at the Museum is presented by the Clark County Historical Society and the George Rogers Clark Heritage Association, and proceeds benefit both organizations.

Organizer Pam Cottrell calls it “a nice fundraiser for both of us,” adding “it’s a nice way to get the word out about all the wonderful historical venues in the community.”

The event has been recognized by the Ohio Local History Alliance for its outstanding achievement in Local History Outreach. The alliance is affiliated with the Ohio Historical Society.

Readers of this column know of my fondness for history, especially of the local variety. Our community is blessed with a rich heritage and I have been fortunate to learn most of it through interviewing and interacting with people who are much more knowledgeable about it than I am.

Many of those who take part in Night at the Museum are living history specialists who are also involved in the various local historical groups and events that take place throughout the year, including the Fair at New Boston, Crabill House, Davidson Interpretive Center and Hertzler House. Some have spent years researching their characters and portray them on a regular basis at various places throughout the year.

There are many ways to learn history. But living history — allowing people to learn in a hands-on manner and to experience the material — is far more effective. Night at the Museum provides that opportunity for people of all ages.

Advance reservations are necessary for the tours that begin at 10 minute intervals. Reserve a tour by calling 937-324-0657, visiting the Heritage Center at 117 S. Fountain Ave. or at www.grcha.org. Adult admission is $12, $10 for members of George Rogers Clark Heritage Association and the Clark County Historical Society, $5 for those younger than 18.

Contact this writer at Darryl.Bauer@cmgohio.com or 937-328-0341.

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