The Jackson County History Center exists to collect and preserve local history, and people can visit the campus in Brownstown to see it all.
Stepping into the Ball Museum, however, isn’t very comfortable at certain times of the year because it doesn’t have heating or air conditioning. Also, the Frederick Keach Heller Memorial Museum doesn’t have air conditioning, but it does have baseboard heating.
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Soon, that no longer will be the case.
The center recently was awarded $10,000 from the Indiana Historical Society’s statewide Heritage Support Grant program.
Funding comes from the fifth round of the program, made possible by a grant from Lilly Endowment Inc., and it will be used to create a climate-controlled environment for collections of both small items, such as clothing, dolls and textiles, and larger items, such as furniture, appliances and farm equipment.
Since the program’s launch in 2016, grant funds from the endowment have allowed the historical society to award an average of $500,000 per grant cycle to organizations in 53 of Indiana’s 92 counties.
The history center is the first Jackson County organization to receive a Heritage Support Grant.
“With the completion of these improvements, our buildings will be easier to maintain,” said Margo Brewer, a history center volunteer. “In addition, we will be able to host special events and tours year-round, which will give more people access to our campus and museums.”
Brewer said volunteer Ray Bachmann brought up the grant opportunity a few years ago. Then earlier this year, Dianne Cartmel, a volunteer at the center and former president of the Indiana Historical Society, brought it up again.
At that point, Brewer decided it was time to apply. The process started in January and ended in May.
“It took us a long time,” she said. “We had to do part of it, and it was approved. Then we had to do the rest of it.”
Through a computer program, she had to include attachments, pictures, cost estimates and letters of recommendation. The latter came from several prominent people in the county, Brewer said.
Fellow volunteers Gloria Cross and Dorothy Richards helped along the way, and Cross’ daughter, Staci Tharp, assisted Brewer with submitting the application online.
“The day we submitted it, we worked from 9, 10 o’clock in the morning until 4 o’clock in the evening,” Brewer said.
When she learned the center was among the 22 grant recipients, Brewer said it was satisfying considering the time and effort it took.
The center will have to provide a 15 percent match, or $1,500.
Brewer was out of town during the grant presentation in August at the Indiana Historical Society in Indianapolis, but Cross, Richards, Gary Cross and Bill Day went to accept it. Day is president of the history center and is a Jackson County historian.
A local contractor will start the heating and air conditioning work later this month.
All of the volunteers said that has been a long time coming.
“It’s very, very cold in the winter and very, very hot in the summer,” Cross said of the Ball Museum. “Heating and air conditioning is just a necessity in life anymore. Used to, it wasn’t. You opened the windows and opened the doors or put in fans or put on a fire.”
The museum has a lot of artifacts that need to be in a climate-controlled environment, Brewer said.
“Also, we have a large back room, and once we get our heating and air in there and get it climate-controlled, we hope to have programs and speakers and stuff like that in the back of that building,” she said.
They hope there will be enough funding to put in new heating and air conditioning in the Heller museum.
“We have got artifacts and we have got uniforms down there that need to be in climate-controlled conditions,” Brewer said.
The history center had applied for a $50,000 grant this time around but just received $10,000. Brewer said she plans to apply again next year with hopes of using the funding to tuckpoint bricks on the exterior of the Ball Museum.
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The Jackson County History Center is a 501(c)(3) organization formed in 2010 with the merger of local historical and genealogical societies.
The Jackson County Historical Society was formed in 1916 as part of the Indiana and Jackson County centennial observance. The Jackson County Genealogical Society was formed in 1983.
The center is at 105 N. Sugar St., Brownstown. The office and genealogy library are open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays; from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays; and by appointment Wednesdays and weekends. The museums and pioneer village are open from 9 to 11 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.
An annual membership costs $15 and is tax-deductible.
For information, call 812-358-2118, email [email protected] or search for Jackson County History Center of Indiana on Facebook.