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A new spin on old history: Washington Historical Society debuts its remodeled museum | Local News

The Washington Historical Society Museum celebrated its new look with a grand reopening Tuesday.

Katie Dieckhaus, the museum’s executive director, said the event was “the culmination of months of planning” and her team was excited to show the community the results.

After raising $272,438 through its “Keeping History Alive” campaign, the historical society closed the museum in late December for upgrades and new exhibits. It spent about $250,000 of that money on the upgrades using several local contractors including Country Manor, which did the flooring and Sticker Geek, which did the signage.

Debuting Tuesday were an exhibit about the powerful impact women have had on Washington; a research section about Black history in the Washington area; and a new collection of items related to Marine veteran Sgt. Rocky Sickmann, a Krakow native and one of the soldiers held in the 1979 Iran hostage crisis.

“There are communities across the state that would love to have a historical society as vibrant as ours,” said Washington Mayor Sandy Lucy. “We are such a community of rich history, and that is one of the things that I really enjoy doing as mayor — when we have visitors in our community, to give a little bit of our background.”

Dieckhaus emphasized the community dedication to local history.

“This is a gem, not just for a community in general, but for a community of our size,” Dieckhaus said in her speech.

Houseman Hall dedication

Everyone involved said the museum couldn’t have happened without the late Marc Houseman.

In 2001, after spending 10 years as director of the historical society, Houseman became the first executive director of the society’s new museum, a role he kept until his death in May.

Houseman was a relentless researcher, advocate and fundraiser. “He led efforts during his 20-year tenure to implement collection policies, develop an archive and craft professional exhibits for the society’s museum,” said Frank Wood, a board member of the Washington Historical Society and close friend to Houseman, during the ceremony Tuesday .

“Through his extensive historical research and knowledge, Mark became an invaluable adviser to the city of Washington as well as numerous community organizations and local businesses. These partnerships made Mark influential in local preservation efforts,” Wood said.

However, Wood and others who knew Houseman said he was so much more than a museum director.

“Mark’s greatest gift, I think, to all of us was time,” Wood said. “He could teach us about time, teach us about what went on during time periods, but he was also a giver of time, a giver of his own time. And that’s what I appreciated.

“He always seemed to have time for you. He never seemed like he was in a hurry, so I think of that when I think of Mark,” he said. “When I would visit with him, he always made me feel like he had all the time in the world.”

Kelly Wood, who is married to Frank Wood, recalled Houseman’s ability to tell her the history of a specific tree in Franklin County and the time he helped a student discover that his family farm was built on the site of a Native American battlefield.

The Washington Historical Society renamed the first floor of the museum Houseman Hall in honor of his legacy.

Asking for feedback

Tuesday’s ceremony was a packed house.

Cathie Schoppenhorst said she couldn’t find the words to fully express how amazed she was with the refreshed museum. “It was nice to hear the women’s history and hear more of Rocky’s history,” Schoppenhorst said. “It was a good combination of our local history.”

Richard Buretta said that he was impressed with the job Dieckhaus has done. I hope that the community continues to support it the way they did Tuesday.

“I hope they keep showing up like that,” he said.

Dieckhaus thanked the audience and the community for attending the opening, adding that the museum could not exist without their support. She encouraged community members to provide feedback, “good and bad.”

“We want to make sure that we’re telling your stories and we’re telling them with integrity and we’re telling them honestly.”


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