GREENVILLE — Garst Museum held their annual seasonal Open House this weekend. The museum was open to the public, free of charge, for three hours Sunday afternoon.
Dr. Clay Johnson, director and CEO of the museum, seemed pleased with the turnout.
“The last several years we had it in November, and people were coming in wearing shorts,” Johnson said. “It was a little difficult to get into the spirit of a ‘seasonal’ open house!”
Since the timing for the event changed to early December, according to Johnson, attendance has improved, with close to 300 people passing through the museum’s doors during the three-hour period.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to give back to the community,” Johnson said. “It’s also good for people who want to bring their kids in, or people who wouldn’t be able to attend otherwise.”
Johnson said the event is about much more than simply attracting new members to purchase paid memberships to the museum.
“Of course we’re always interested in welcoming new members,” Johnson said. “But mostly we want to let people know what they have here, right in their own backyard. And hopefully they decide to get involved with the museum in one way or another.”
Garst Museum is operated by the Darke County Historical Society, and houses more than 300,000 artifacts, including permanent exhibits focusing on Annie Oakley, the Treaty of Greenville, journalist Lowell Thomas, and Ohio’s Native American heritage. In addition, new temporary exhibits are brought in on a rotating basis. The museum also offers research help and access to an extensive historical archive.
Garst was voted Best Historical Museum in Ohio for 2018 by readers of Ohio Magazine, as well as being featured on a recent episode of the Travel Channel TV series “Mysteries at the Museum” focusing on Annie Oakley. Johnson feels that this exposure, along with the open house and the annual Gathering at Garst event, has helped increase attendance at the museum over the last few years.
The museum will close in January while new exhibits are brought in, then reopen in February for a number of events, including a Winter Speaker Series. Roane Smothers of the Union Literary Institute Preservation Society will speak regarding the Darke County area’s African American heritage and the history of the Longtown settlement in February, while historian Rex Spencer will lecture on General Arthur St. Clair in March. School tours of the museum will be offered in the winter and spring as well.
“We’ll have about a hundred kids running around here in February,” Johnson said.
Johnson also stressed that the museum does not receive federal funding, and therefore relies on memberships, donations, and volunteers from the community to keep these events going.
“Our volunteers put in a lot of work,” Johnson said. “Everyone enjoys putting in the effort for these events. I’m always amazed at the number of people who show up and help us out.”
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