Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
FAIRFIELD – The Carnegie Historical Museum in Fairfield has undergone a major overhaul, and this past weekend, the museum invited the public to take a look at all the renovations from the past year and a half.
On Friday, the museum invited the First National Bank Heritage Club to tour the museum, and the following day, the museum hosted an open house to show off the new exhibits on its lower level and upper floor. Patrons got to see restored exhibits, too, such as the Old Settlers Day Barbecue buffalo head.
The new exhibits include those on water birds, Zumi pottery, a history of the town’s electric light tower, passenger pigeons, Stephenson coverlets and more.
The building’s lower level has undergone a major reorganization and is now dedicated to all things Fairfield, from its founding to the modern day. It covers the full spectrum of community life, everything from gas stations to drug stores to buggy showrooms.
Patrons can learn about the history of factories and retail establishments, as well as a nostalgic glimpse into times past, such as the 98-year-history of Parsons College. There’s also an exhibit celebrating the golden anniversary of Maharishi International University, which was founded in 1971 and moved to Fairfield in 1974.
Jake Schmidt, assistant director of the museum, took the lead on reorganizing the basement displays. He said the project began in July and, though it’s mostly complete, is still ongoing.
He said the museum would like to add information about industries in town such as Iowa Malleable.
“We’re trying to cover everything from the 1840s to today,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt estimates that about 75 percent of the items now on display were previously in storage. He said the museum plans to rotate its items in storage on a regular basis. For instance, there’s a display focusing on schools, and the plan is to rotate that display every four months to feature a different school. He said they plan to do the same thing with other displays like those on churches and service clubs, focusing on a different one every four months.
“We want to create excitement for people to come back and see the museum again and again,” Schmidt said.
One of the displays in the lower level touches on all the townships in Jefferson County. Kathy Tollenaere led that project.
“Kathy researched like crazy on all those small towns. She can tell you so much history,” Schmidt said.
Lawrence Eyre and Karen Price worked on the MIU display. Eyre gave the museum a number of historical tidbits about Old Settlers. Joe Hunt researched industries. Sheri Blough Neff took on the churches. Dave Neff and Therese Cummiskey worked on the Parsons College exhibit. Mark Shafer worked on the schools.
“It was fabulous to work with everybody,” Schmidt said.
The museum hopes to expand its hours to be open Tuesday through Saturday. Its current hours are 1-4 p.m. on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
The museum and its foundation plan to mount a capital campaign to raise funds for expensive undertakings. Donations are useful which applying grants which require a cash match.
Anyone interested in helping with a tax-deductible gift may contact The Carnegie Museum Foundation at P.O. BOX 502 Fairfield, IA 52556 or leave a message on the museum phone : 641-472-6343.