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Lawrence County Museum A Wealth Of History
Updated December 3, 2014 7:33 AM
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(BEDFORD) - A John Deere farm implement store was located on the north side of the Lawrence County Courthouse square when this image was produced.


Today part of these revitalized buildings are the location of the Lawrence County Museum and Edward L. Hutton Research Library.

Coming up:

  • Monday at 5:30 p.m.: Volunteer dinner, to honor everyone who volunteered time at the museum in 2014.
  • Dec. 24 through Dec. 26: Closed (Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and day after)
  • Dec. 31: Closed (New Year's Eve)
  • Discovery
  • The sessions are Saturdays from 2-5 p.m. for kids ages 4-12 and accompanying adults. The December theme is "A Bavarian Christmas."
  • Dec. 6: Deutschland
  • Dec. 13: Sew! It's almost Christmas
  • Dec. 20: Cravings, Kuchen, Carvings
  • Dec. 27: From the Black Forest

Becky Buher reports that exhibits and collections at the Lawrence County Museum of History are dedicated to engage, inspire, inform, entertain and preserve objects of lasting interest for future generations to enjoy. It's always fun to look back, and so today let's look back to the history of the museum itself.

An historic society was locally conceived as early as 1914, but it was not until 1924 that Zora Askew and E.Y. Guernsey co-founded the Lawrence County Historical Society museum. Guernsey was the society's first president. Askew became the museum president and for 17 years served as curator in rooms in the courthouse basement. Many of you may remember going to see the peacock or the dressed fleas or the cobra and the mongoose as well as a complex full of memorabilia.

From 1989 to 1998, John Bridges was president of the Lawrence County Historical and Genealogical Society. He dreamed of a modern county museum where visitors could learn how people lived.

In October 2002, the museum temporarily relocated into the empty JC Penney building at the corner of 15th and J streets.

But a permanent space was needed, and benefactors and volunteers came together to make it a reality. Edward L. Hutton wanted to help. He was an insightful 1938 graduate of Bedford High School and had become a successful businessman and philanthropist. He provided much of the means. Hutton explained his generosity by saying, "I have a farmer's attitude, I'm putting something back into the soil." Larry King coordinated the effort and community members came together to provide both time and money.

Since 2005, the 12,000-square-foot Lawrence County Museum of History and Edward L. Hutton Research Library has been conveniently located on the public square at 929 15th Street -- the former Hamer-Smith building. The building has been home to many businesses since its construction in 1908, the last being Buck Lemon's furniture company.

Since 1993 and continuing for 20 years, King provided museum leadership first as president and then vice president. Under his direction, the museum received an historic preservation award in 2006 from Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana for the extensive building revitalization and positive effect made on the downtown square. King retired as vice president in 2013 but continues to volunteer.

"I enjoy seeing and helping preserve the artifacts of yesteryear," he said. "I hope in years to come others can view our labors and understand how we lived." Volunteers Larry and Janet King and Kenny and Phyllis White have all been an impetus to creating and maintaining a vital and active community museum.

In 2009, Rowena Cross-Najafi became the museum president following her retirement from a 20-year career as a foreign service officer. She continues to bring new energies and ideas to both the museum and community.

In addition to volunteers, the museum has four paid staff members. Joyce Shepherd is the librarian in the Edward L. Hutton Research Library. Shepherd has an extensive knowledge of Lawrence County History and a knack for finding just the right thing.

She explains, "We are fortunate to have such an extensive genealogy collection. I enjoy helping people research their ancestors and the history of Lawrence County."

Greg Nikirk is the collections manager and is responsible for researching, documenting and caring for the museum's extensive collection of historic artifacts. Nikirk also oversees information technology needs.

Glenda Reynolds is the collections assistant and coordinates volunteer scheduling.
Penny May is in charge of The World of Discovery, a fun-filled Saturday afternoon children's program.

The museum is a nonprofit organization. Membership and donations of time, expertise and funds are essential to continued operations. Whatever age, background, or ability, there are ways to participate.

Speakers program: At 7 p.m. on the second Monday of each month. The speakers and topics change each month. These public events are free and available for everyone to enjoy.

Gift shop: Items for holiday giving include the 2015 calendar, Stained Glass Artistry of Lawrence County, the Civil War book, Letters Home, many books by local authors, historic-scene coasters, and other locally made arts and crafts.

Become a member: Annual dues -- individual ($15), couple ($20), family ($25), student ($5) or lifetime ($250).
In October, 486 people visited; come enjoy this holiday season with a visit to your Lawrence County Museum.

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