Tuesday, May 30, 2006

NEIGHBORS >> Museum has foothold in downtown Lonoke

Leader staff writer

IN SHORT: Lonoke museum grows, seeks volunteers and donations to continue service to the community.

Period kitchen, parlor and workshop scenes fill the display windows at the new and evolving Lonoke County Museum, housed in the old automobile dealership on Hwy. 70.

“We’ve had lots of response from the windows,” says Cheryl Miller, executive director. After having seen them, area resident Joe Brewer brought three truckloads of carpenter, farm and blacksmithing tools.

“We had no notion the display would look so good,” she said. “Shirley Tomlinson made the curtains,” said Miller, whose husband Jackie is manager of the Pettus Cotton Gin and doubled as electrician and carpenter.

“Diane Finley put the window displays together with just the right touch,” Miller said.

After spending more than a year trying unsuccessfully to lease various properties owned by the city and located on the old railroad right of way, the Bennett family made a gift of the old building to the museum board just a year ago. The board and various volunteers have been busy renovating ever since.

The plan for the main room is to line the walls with the fa├žade of a typical 1800s Lonoke County town, similar to the treatment at the Grand Prairie Museum in Stuttgart.

They fixed up the north wall, which has no insulation in it, in part by creating display windows and insulating their interior walls, Miller said.

The main entry room needs carpet. Miller’s office is cheerful, well lit and functional and the adjoining genealogy room has a tall wall of bookshelves and will house a computer.

The roof is patched and the museum board hopes to land a grant for a new roof to keep its displays safe.

“We’re going to have to get a window (air conditioning) unit or two,” she said, until the museum can afford central heat and air.

Miller said the ductwork already was in place.

She said she hoped to have both the front display and the genealogy room completed soon.

Miller said that as usual the museum needs money and volunteers.