SIDNEY — Shelby County has a strong industrial history and the Shelby County Historical Society wants to tell that story.
It plans to do so in the building it acquired last year, which is across North Street from its Ross Historical Center.
“We want to capture the reasons why this county was such an innovative place. A culture was created that was responsible for so many innovations here. We want to show the culture and spirit of entrepreneurship that gave us an environment unusual for a city this size,” said SCHS Secretary Rich Wallace.
The organization formed a task force to determine how the additional building might best be used. Now it is engaged in interviewing prospective exhibit designers.
“We’ve invited four of the best to meet with us. We want to build the right relationship with the right group,” Wallace said. He declined to name the design firms that are under consideration, but said all four are within 100 miles of Sidney. Among them are teams that have created exhibits for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery in Dayton.
SCHS has completed its first round of interviews. During the next talks with candidates, SCHS will discuss “how they see putting our vision into play,” Wallace said.
“We want to link with education and history,” said SCHS Director Tilda Phlipot. “We want an environment that will link with schools through the STEM program. We want our children to know today that their forefathers, even if they didn’t graduate from high school, had an education in math and science that allowed them to create things that went out over the world that were almost perfect.”
The design teams have been invited to see the Ross Center and what SCHS is calling the annex. Eventually, the annex will have a formal name.
“(The teams) had to decide whether they wanted to work with us. We’re really pleased that all four have decided to come back and make a presentation,” Phlipot said.
Wallace hopes that the next discussions will give SCHS decision-makers ideas about the candidates’ thinking processes, about how they would approach the design work.
“We’ve never been about being a museum,” he said. “It’s about our being an education organization. (The designs) have to fit in our educational mission. We’re all about creating little mini-historians.”
During the 1990s, SCHS volunteers wrote the facts and figures of the county’s industrial history.
“We need to come up with a process to articulate reasons (for the industry boom in Shelby County) that would be understandable to young people. We’re in the process of selecting the right design team who can understand this and help us tell the story,” Wallace said.
Ferguson Construction has been contracted to adapt the building. The exhibit designers will work with Ferguson to create the exhibits and the spaces they will fill.
SCHS has not established a budget for the project or a time frame for completion. Those will come once designers have been hired.
“We’re making the apple pie right now. We’re not ready to sell it yet,” Wallace said.
The displays in the annex will supplement what’s shown now in the Ross Center.
“The headquarters of the society will always be at the Ross Center,” Wallace added.
“The annex is going to allow us to exhibit some artifacts that we haven’t been able to because of space limitations,” Phlipot said.
Reach the writer at 973-538-4827.