Museum to See New Additions: Plans Underway for WWI Display, Cell Phone Tour
January 20, 2014
Calli Price, CT

C-T Photo / Calli Price

CAPTION: Two local women view the WWI case at the Grand River Historical Society Museum Saturday. The case contains two uniforms, a helmet, a gas mask, goggles and leg wraps. Museum Curator Pam Clingerman plans to add a second case of WWI artifacts and models to the museum display in the near future.

The Grand River Historical Society Museum is currently working on some changes to its exhibits for this year, especially to its World War I collection in honor of the 100th anniversary of the beginning of "the war to end all wars." Museum Curator Pam Clingerman said the museum currently has two uniforms from WWI, a doughboy uniform and a cavalry uniform, complete with a gas mask, goggles, helmet and leg wraps. These both fit in one case. Clingerman is hoping to add a second case to the WWI collection, and plans to potentially work with students from Chillicothe High School to include dioramas of war technology developed for the war, including tanks, airplanes, hand grenades and flame throwers. The case will also include several souvenir items soldiers brought back from the war and a letter from home.

The case holding the WWI uniforms, as well as the other war uniform cases, has been repainted with paint that will not outgas, a process where the paint releases chemicals that damage historic artifacts over time. "The purpose of repainting them with non-reactive paint is so that you don't have outgassing of chemicals, which doesn't necessarily affect the fabric itself but it affects the thread," Clingerman explained. "After a long period of time, the thread would deteriorate to the point where sleeves would start falling off and buttons would be falling off. We want to conserve what we have. "Civil War uniforms are 150 years old, non-replaceable. Same with the World War I, they're 100 years old."

Filters have also been placed on the lights inside the cases to protect the fabric. Felt bases have been placed in the bottom of the cases as well. Mannequins holding the war uniforms are also being replaced. Clingerman is creating mannequins to fit each uniform they have, instead of using the predominantly ladies-shaped mannequins they have. She is using broom sticks, blocks of wood, carpet rolls and polyethelene foam to create a more block-body form.

The museum's gun collection will be moved to the war section to tie in with the genre. The guns will be organized by era, and guns used during the war periods will be denoted. "We're trying to tell stories so that people understand what things are," Clingerman said. "We're trying to make things cleaner, easier to read."

Though 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of WWI, America did not enter the war until 1917. Clingerman said closer to that time, the museum will work on a special event to commemorate the part America played in the war.

In 2013, Clingerman said the museum applied for two grants; one grant that would allow the museum to receive 10 new tall cases and one that would allow a cell phone tour to be used in the museum. Due to applying late in the grant season, the museum did not receive the new cases, but did receive the cell phone tour grant. Clingerman said the museum was originally going to place all war-time uniforms under cases if they received the new cases and would use the cell phone tour to go along with the uniforms to further explain them. "If we had the ten cases, that was going to be a good way of explaining everything," Clingerman added.

Instead, the cell phone tour will be created for the entire museum. Clingerman is currently working on the tour, which should be completed by the end of the month.

The museum will apply for the 2014 grant for new cases this spring and will hopefully receive them this fall if their application is accepted. Should this be the case, a carpenter will help to install the new cases. Clingerman said the current cases are typically used to put historical items in storage, not on display. "These ones are nice, but they are store cases," Clingerman explained. "There's a big difference. The new ones would be glass on the sides as well so you'd have a much better view and you could put more things in there."

Eventually, Clingerman said she would like to get all war uniforms under glass case for preservation of the fabric. Good, quality display cases for museums can cost as much as as $18,000 with environmental controls and preservation technology. Though the grant would not supply environmentally controlled cases, she said that display cases are still expensive and that without grants or donations, the museum would not be able to store or display its historical items and preserve their quality. "We have to work within a budget," Clingerman said. "We have to depend on what we can find. With small museums you need to depend on grants for a lot of things." Clingerman said she is hopeful that the museum receives the cases in the fall. Until then, she will continue working on refurbishing the current cases.

The Grand River Historical Society Museum is open every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. with the exception of holidays. For more information on museum events and exhibits, contact the museum at 660-646-1341.

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