After a year and a half of renovations, the McLean County History Museum & Regional Family Research Center is complete.
The museum, in Calhoun, has been expanded to add more historical items for visitors to see and use to conduct research.
“We need to preserve this history because if we don’t, it goes away,” said museum Director Tim Sheppard.
Volunteers for the museum sort through donations and decide what to display and store.
“We are happy to get anything relating to the county or surrounding counties,” Sheppard said.
One service the museum offers is family research.
“You’d be surprised how many people — middle-aged people, as their parents are getting older and have passed — take more of an interest in learning more about their family,” Sheppard said. “We have a new Facebook page and one thing we’ve done is posting pictures on there and our followers might recognize people and places in them. It helps us identify.”
Before COVID-19, the museum reached out to local high school history classes.
“We give them a veteran from the county and they do research, from when he was born to when he died, and they do a memorial,” Sheppard said. “Our outreach right now would be the high school.”
Every two months the museum would host a guest speaker free to the public.
“One month we had a man demonstrate his cleaning process for restoring headstones,” Sheppard said. “We also host skits. One month we had a man from Owensboro do a Ben Franklin reenactment.”
Sheppard said once things go back to normal, they hope to reach out to the middle schools and get more involvement from young people.
“I want to get the schools involved more because it teaches them history,” he said. “Not only of the country but also the community.”
Next door to the museum is the Treasure House, which is also a part of their services.
Sheppard said they are hoping to add 315 square feet to the back end of the building for more storage and an additional bathroom.
“People will bring in donations and the ladies over there go through it and decide what to sell,” he said. “It’s a thrift store and all of the proceeds go to overhead for utilities.”
Although there are new additions to the museum, there are still concerns.
“Our biggest concern right now is insurance,” Sheppard said. “We pay $4,000 a year and it only covers the structure and office equipment. The loom we have is 200 years old and it’s hard to find a company who can cover something like that.”
COVID-19 has been another hurdle for the museum.
“We are only open on a week-by-week basis right now,” Sheppard said. “We had a grand opening and open house date set for August but we had to change that until people feel more comfortable being outside.”
Despite these challenges, the museum is still making improvements to their building. Sheppard said they hope to get a new sign in the front of the building with lights to illuminate it.
The History Museum & Regional Family Research Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and any monetary donations can be made to 540 Main St., P.O. Box 291, Calhoun, KY 42347.