Museum Opens With New Exhibits
Covered wagon, aerial map, tribute to artist Fred Irvin new this season
May 1, 2013 CT

Austin Buckner CT Photo

CAPTION: Marvin Holcer, president of the Grand River Historical Society Museum, welcomes visitors to their spring tea. At Sunday's event, Holcer thanked the docents who volunteer their time to the museum.

The Grand River Historical Society Museum recently added three new exhibits to its building in Chillicothe.

The first of those exhibits is a collection of artwork by Chillicothe native and famed artist Fred Irvin. Irvin graduated from CHS in the early 1930s. He later attended the Kansas City Art Institute and the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. Curator Pamela Clingerman said Irvin was an accomplished cartoonist, having once worked alongside Walt Disney, but it was his work as an illustrator that helped make a name for himself. "(Irvin) was at the Saturday Evening Post the same time as Norman Rockwell," Clingerman explained. "He mostly illustrated magazine covers. He did a couple of illustrations for Reader's Digest." The collection of Irvin's artwork in Chillicothe is the largest in the world. Still, Clingerman said the room at the museum dedicated solely to Irvin is just a small sample of his work. "He did some amazing things, and this is just the top of the cake," Clingerman said. "It only scratches the surface."

CAPTION: This reproduction of a Prairie Schooner covered wagon is on long-term loan to the museum.
These wagons were generally 11 feet long, two feet high, and four feet wide. When loaded, the wagons could weigh up to 2,500 pounds.
Austin Buckner CT Photo

The second exhibit is a reproduction of a Prairie Schooner covered wagon. The name of this particular type of wagon comes from its most recognizable feature, a cover made of white cotton, linen canvas or Osnaburg cloth. From a distance, the covers looked like sails traveling across the prairie. Clingerman said the wagon is a great way to show visitors the struggles of packing your family and all your belongings into one wagon and making the grueling trip across the country. "We're trying to show the kids you went from one side of the country with everything you needed for the trip," Clingerman said. According to Clingerman, Hollywood has created a common misconception about the use of these wagons. When loaded, these wagons could weigh up to 2,500 pounds and required two yoke of oxen, mules, or horses to be pulled. The wagons were primarily used to haul cargo instead of the travelers themselves. "All the movies show everybody sitting on the thing and living inside the wagon," Clingerman said. "That didn't happen. They walked beside and slept underneath."

The third exhibit is an aerial photograph of Chillicothe from the early 1960s. The photograph was later enlarged and now stands floor to ceiling inside the museum, serving as a giant map of the city. Museum President Marvin Holcer said the photograph is remarkable given the time when it must have been produced.

Austin Buckner CT Photo

CAPTION: This aerial photograph of Chillicothe is just one of the new exhibits at the Grand River Historical Society Museum. The photograph is believed to have been taken around 1964 by the USDA, commissioned by the city. Many large pieces of the photograph have been stored in the museum for years. The exhibit is fitted with many landmarks in red lettering to help visitors better navigate the map.

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