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Culver area museum reopens with new name, locale, director, features

June 1, 2014

It's been a long road -- and a long, hard winter of preparation -- but the Culver area museum and research center is readying for its grand re-opening with a new name, new location, and some vibrant new partnerships.

The Museum of Culver and Lake Maxinkuckee History (formerly the Center for Culver History) will hold a grand re-opening Saturday, June 14 at 1 p.m. as part of the annual Taste of Culver festival on Jefferson Street between Ohio and Main Streets. The museum itself, along with its new neighboring entity, the Culver and Lake Maxinkuckee Visitor Center, is now located within the southwest quadrant of the First

Farmers Bank building at the corner of Main and Jefferson.
It's a location appropriately saturated with Culver history, from the remarkable success of the State Exchange Bank which occupied the building for much of the 20th century (and of the bank robbery and subsequent, headline-grabbing capture of the perpetrators via local officers), to the fact that the museum is located in the offices of W.O. Osborn, surely the giant figure looming over the entire Culver community and its progress over the past 100 years.

Those who remember the site, however, will want to take a look.

Extensive remodeling and improvement -- by way of Easterday Construction in Culver -- has taken place, bringing to light the turn-of-the-century era wood floor and beautifying the entire look of the space. Those familiar with the exhibits and overall look of the previous incarnation of the Antiquarian and Historical Society of Culver-sponsored museum are in for a whole new experience as well: exhibits and signage are all-new, and visitors will be greeted with a likeness of a Lake Maxinkuckee steamboat of the 19th century which guests will be able board and actually sit in, and from which they can watch historic videos and enjoy vintage images of the area. The boat was sponsored by Rev. Dr. John Houghton and will be named in honor of his ancestor and a woman who could be considered Culver's "founding mother," Emma Dickson.

Houghton will, in fact, be one of the speakers at the grand opening in June.

New (as of early this year) museum director Anna Campbell credits much of the progress to the museum committee, which formed two years ago and began visioning not just the transition from the museum's former location in the Culver Public Library last year, but a new, vibrant center for the community's history with enhanced partnerships and opportunities to tell the Culver and Lake Maxinkuckee area's story.

“Rev. Dr. John Houghton is a direct decedent of Bayless Dickson who founded the then Union Town- present day town of Culver," says Campbell. "Here we are over 175 years later reopening a museum that tells the story of a remarkable community. There are several historic families with generations of descendants that continue to call this lake and this land home. Mr. Mike Overmyer, Ms. Julie Hollowell, Mr. and Mrs. Joe Baughn, and Mr. Jeff Kenney all sit on the museum committee and have relatives from here that date that back to the 1800’s. It is a blessing to be able to have this museum for the community inside a historic building- opened by historic family members.”

Hollowell also brings her extensive background as an anthropologist to the committee, in addition to the expertise of Joan Bess, retired Culver Academies librarian. Bob Kreuzberger, a founding member of the Antiquarian Society whose ancestor was an early businessman here, brings his knowledge to bear, while Mark Damore Jr. helps represent the interests of Culver's business community and area tourism.

Chairing the museum committee on behalf of the AHS board is George Duncan, who Campbell credits for yeomen work in coordinating many facets of the planning and construction endeavors at the museum.
She also expresses appreciation to the bank itself for making the new location possible.

“The museum has fantastic landlords," Campbell says. "The First Farmers Bank and Trust team have been very supportive and has gone above and beyond to help the museum and Visitor Center settle in.”
A grant from the Marshall County Community Foundation, Campbell adds, helped make the renovations possible.

One important enhancement the building makes possible is an expansion of storage and work space for museum operations and the many artifacts and other items in the museum's collection. Campbell acknowledges this is an aspect of the museum lacking in glamour to many, but it's one of the most important.

"The Indiana Historical Society has pointed out that most museums should plan on a far greater amount of space for storage and proper care of their archival and artifact material than is actually used for exhibition," she points out. "By utilizing areas of the bank building generously allowed by First Farmers, the museum is able to care for and properly store the area's many precious historical items in our care, something we feel a great responsibility to do in fulfillment of our role in the public's trust as caretakers. This is actually a far greater benefit than might be apparent on the surface. We're very pleased with it."

Campbell and the museum committee are also pleased that their new digs are next to the new Culver and Lake Maxinkuckee Visitor Center, which will also have its grand opening simultaneously at the Taste event.

Museum representatives in the past have alluded to the variety of positives for both entities in sharing space, as the missions of the two often overlap and shared resources will hopefully help make it possible for both to thrive regardless of the challenges they face in a community as small as Culver.

Campbell emphasizes the endeavor is still an ongoing one.

“We are thrilled to open the museum doors and get the community and visitors into the space to dive back in time," she says. "An enormous amount of effort has been made by many people- the museum continues to be a work in progress. We are raising funds for exterior signage to be installed on the bank building. All donations from the opening will go towards signage. We are excited to showcase our new name -- The Culver & Lake Maxinkuckee Museum -- soon in the future.”

Ongoing museum hours will be posted in the near future, says Campbell, and news and updates can be found on the AHS' website at www.culverahs.com, as well as its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/AhsCulver. The museum's telephone number is 574-635-0053, a local number even though it lacks the "842" prefix.

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