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July 13, 2014

Clark County Museum digs for, preserves local artifacts

JEFFERSONVILLE — After a day of digging holes about a couple feet deep, members of the Falls of the Ohio Archaeological Society finally struck gold — or glass, that is.

The group was looking for interesting artifacts at the back of the Thomas Jefferson Howard House that will soon be the new home for the Clark County Museum, set to open Nov. 1.

Volunteers and children came out for the museum’s Learn and Serve day Friday to help with maintenance work such as painting and mowing, to learn about some of the museum’s antiques and to see an archaeological dig in action.

The digging crew found pieces of glass, square nails and even a marble.

But archaeological society member Anne Bader said it’s not about the artifacts themselves — it’s more about what those artifacts mean.

“We’re looking to find out how these people lived,” she said of the previous owners of the house, built in the 1830s.

Items such as decorated ceramics can reveal a family’s economic status as well as their consumer preferences.

Most of the items the archaeologists found Friday dated to the early 1900s.

“The deeper you go, the older you get, so maybe we’re just not there yet,” Bader said of finding 19th century artifacts.

A NEW HOME

Artifacts are something the Clark County Museum is familiar with. One of the new buildings that will be renovated before a fall opening stores hundreds of antiques — an old sewing machine, a rope bed with posts about 10 feet tall and a Jeffersonville High School diploma from the 19th century are just a few of those antiques.

Museum President Jeanne Burke said those items will eventually be on display when the museum work is completed.

Until then, interior renovations to the front third of the main building will be finished by Nov. 1 when the museum opens its doors to showcase an exhibit on the 2012 tornado disaster provided by March2Recovery.

Burke said the museum was displaced from its previous home in the Clark County Courthouse two years ago. Museum officials were able to find the current space at Eighth and Michigan streets for cheap rent.

“We’ve been in limbo since 2012,” she said.

Greg Sekula, director of the Southern Regional Office of Indiana Landmarks, said they are finalizing the exterior and interior renovations plans. First priority is to renovate the facade.

“Hopefully in the coming weeks, you’ll start to see some improvements,” Sekula said.

The Thomas Jefferson Howard House will be the last to be redone because of structural repairs that need to be made to a rotting floor joist.

Burke said the museum has “tons” of artifacts to display.

“What we would like to do is represent the entire county in the space we have,” she said, adding that their location is “not big enough to tell the whole story.”

The main building has a lot of vertical space, so Burke said she can envision maybe suspending one of William “Hap” Happel’s airplanes from the ceiling or displaying an artificial tree to represent the Indiana’s first state forest, Clark State Forest.

Those are just a few pieces of history that have roots in Clark County — others include Daniel French’s steam engine prototype, the beginning of the Lewis and Clark expeditions and George Rogers Clark’s legacy.

“It’s one of the most historical counties in Indiana,” Burke said.

SO YOU KNOW

• A portion of the Clark County Museum will open Nov. 1 with an exhibit on the March 2012 tornadoes

• Donations to the museum can be mailed to P.O. Box 749, Jeffersonville

• For more information on donating or volunteering, call 502-548-0259

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