Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress
Renovation of the Senior Citizen Center is underway as city crews help create more space for the Vanishing Texana Museum, which, after 47 years, returned to its original home at 300 South Bolton in 2012.
Last week, city employees began overseeing work done by contractors, who erected a partition to separate the senior center from the museum portion, said Jackonville Public Works Director Will Cole.
The crews change as the contractors work on different areas of the project, he said, adding that if all goes to plan, work could be completed within 30-45 days.
“We could be (in the museum) by the end of this calendar year,” estimated museum board chairman Sam Hopkins.
Whether at its original South Bolton site or on Jackson Street as part of the Jacksonville Library program, the Vanishing Texana Museum has held the history of Cherokee County since 1965.
The renovation – estimated at $50,000 – includes $8,000 spent on original glassed-in displays in the wall that runs parallel to Bolton Street, serving as niches for part of the museum's nearly 1,000-piece collection.
The building is utilized by several different groups, such as Meals on Wheels and the Jacksonville Jammers dulcimer club, but the museum board has ensured that work on the site will not restrict their use.
“We didn't want to displace anyone,” Hopkins said, adding that “everybody will continue to have more than enough room (as they) continue to meet and operate as they have been doing.”
To access the senior center, patrons will enter through a doorway that accesses the center's parking lot on Larissa Street, while museum patrons will use the Bolton Street entrance.
A new wall has been erected on the north end of the building, partitioning off the museum space.
This, in turn, has created a more open floorplan for the museum, Hopkins said.
“When we moved out of the library to this center, we just about doubled the amount of space just in the area where we set up,” Hopkins said. “With the (work underway), we could double it again easily.”
As a result, the board has “three, maybe four additions to the museum planned,” using artifacts that they have not been able to display thus far, he said.
Along with planned exhibits on Lon Morris College and Jacksonville's Black and Native American communities, the Vanishing Texana Museum will create a display of the city's tomato industry, including a tractor similar to ones used by farmers during that era.
“We're still working out how to get it inside the building,” Hopkins laughed. “But the tomato history display is the first thing we want them to see – our role is to tell the whole history (of the community).”
In the meantime, board member Nancy Nesselhauf has been busy entering artifacts into a computerized program called “Past Perfect,” which contains data about the items, such as “who donated it and what we know abut that item, Nesselhauf said.
“A lot is the information that the library already had, so we have about 600-700 items entered” from the original group of artifacts, she said. “The new things that have been donated are what has not yet been entered.”
Because documentation includes photos, the data from the program can be used to set up a website “that we can plug online, and people can see our collection,” Hopkins explained. “It's
also set up so that we can produce DVD programs, so I intend to set up those (as) educational programs (for students in the county).”
Board members are “excited (about the project),” Nesselhauf said. “It'll be very nice (once completed) and we're looking forward to it.”
The best part, however, according to Hopkins, is that thanks to labor provided by city crews along with grants and donations, costs for the renovation are being kept to a minimum.
“The city will not have to bear the brunt of it,” Hopkins said.