Thursday, December 19, 2013

Holiday Hours

B. Virdot letter writer Frank Dick took this photo of his Christmas tree in 1914, several years before the Great Depression hit and his family lost everything.  We will be featuring an exhibition of Dick's photos in the Keller Gallery July - October 2015.

The Museum will close at 1:00 PM on Christmas Eve and will be closed on Christmas Day and New Year's Day.  Regular hours will apply for the rest of the holiday season.

In addition to the regular weekend schedule, the Hoover-Price Planetarium show "Celestial Light" will be presented at 1:00 PM each day during the Christmas break (December 23, 26, 27, 30, and 31, plus January 2 and 3).  Planetarium shows are included in your Museum admission and children must be at least 5 years old to attend.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Top Museum Moments of 2013

I’ve never been one who enjoyed the blank slate of the new year.  I have always preferred to look back on the past year, with a calendar full of appointments, deadlines, events, programs, and exhibits accomplished.

While many of my friends are energized by the “fresh start” of January, I’ve always dreaded it.  To me, there’s something unnerving and daunting about a brand new blank calendar!  I'd much rather flip back through the 2013 calendar and remember all that's been done in my department over the past 12 months.

So, in the spirit of the “year in review” posts that seem to be everywhere this time of year, here are my favorite moments from 2013:

7.  Installing compact shelving in the Conservation Gallery.  The new building was our dream for years and years, so we were very excited when we finally got to build it in 2010.  But the interior wasn’t quite finished.  We desperately wanted compact shelving units to maximize our space in the new storage facility.  After years of looking for the right funding source, we finally got the money to purchase them this year.  We now have a state-of-the-art storage facility for our textiles, furniture, and large artifact collections – with space to grow!

6.  Serving on the grant review committee for The History Fund at the Ohio Historical Society.  I have to say that the two days I spent in Columbus in February 2013 were THE MOST INTENSE of my life.  It was extremely difficult to choose among so many excellent projects.  It really gave me a glimpse at the other side of grant writing.  Your proposal can be top notch, and you can still not be funded when the competition is fierce.  As I write more and more grants in the future, this experience will stick with me and remind me what makes a proposal really stand out in a crowd.

5.  C-SPAN coming to film their popular First Ladies series here.  I’ve had the good fortune of being on several television programs over the years.  I’m always excited when I get a call asking if I’m willing to be on camera.  It was a lot of fun to pull out artifacts relating to Ida McKinley’s life, some of which had never before been seen because they were only recently donated to the Museum!

4.  Being profiled in About magazine.  I’ve been a fan of About since it came out.  I’ve read the column “In My Own Words” many times, asking myself how I would answer the questions if anyone were ever to ask me.  When the email came asking me to do it, I jumped at the chance to participate. 

3.  The donation of a Dueber Hampden bicycle.  I didn’t think any of these still existed.  I had never seen a real one, only a drawing in an ad.  We have a few of the plates that wrap around the handlebar tree, but that was it.  When I found out someone not only HAD ONE, they were willing to DONATE IT, I just about fell off my chair.  The top three things on my Curatorial Wish List were:

  • Ida McKinley’s wedding dress
  • An "I Spin for McKinley" Gibbs top
  • Dueber Hampden bicycle

The only thing we don’t have yet is that wedding dress!  We have a lead on an image of it that I hope pans out shortly.  I think I need to spend some time thinking of a few new items to add to the Wish List.

2.  The release of my fourth book Canton Entertainment.  When 2013 started, it wasn’t even on my radar screen to write another book.  After hearing Cindy in the Museum Shoppe talking about how she wished she had a new book to sell, the idea for Canton Entertainment began to take shape.  It’s been a wild ride!

1.  Installing A Secret Gift in the Keller Gallery.  I know I’ve blogged about this exhibit a lot in the past few months, but that’s only because I care so deeply about this story.  Ted Gup’s book gave Canton a wonderful story to inspire us, as well as the perfect opportunity for our cultural organizations to collaborate.  The exhibit is open through February 2, 2014 in the Keller Gallery, but we are talking about ways to incorporate the story permanently into The Stark County Story.  More about that as it develops.

It's been a great year at the McKinley Presidential Library & Museum!  We're looking forward to what's coming up in 2014.  Even as I crack open that calendar, full of work yet to do, before I know it I'll be right back here in December 2014 looking back at everything we did in the year to come.

From all of us to all of you, Happy Holidays!

Brader exhibit update

This is one of the Brader drawings in our collection.  All of ours have been photographed, and reproductions are on view in the first gallery of The Stark County Story exhibit.

Yesterday I met with Kathleen Wieschaus about the Ferdinand Brader exhibitions planned for December 2014 at the Canton Museum of Art, the Little Art Gallery, and here in our Keller Gallery.

In the past two years, Kathleen has identified more than 200 Brader drawings in museums and private collections all over the country!  Her biggest challenge has been narrowing down what to include in general, and then what to include in each exhibition.

The theme for the Keller Gallery, as of right now, will be Ohio drawings -- mostly those from Stark County.  We would also like to include a section of drawings that feature trains, since we have the HO model train layout.  The exhibit will also include the Stark County Infirmary books that show Brader as a patient, and the Essig family tree to accompany two Essig family farm drawings.

We have decided to shoot for 25 drawings in our space.  That number will allow enough room in between them, and will add an additional 25 drawings to the total number that will be displayed in the community which would not be included otherwise.

All of this is tentative at this point, and of course things could change.  But right now, that is our preliminary plan.  We have also discussed moving the opening of our exhibit to December 5, rather than December 4, so we don't have opening events at the same time as the Canton Museum of Art.  December 5 is our Holiday Open House, so we plan to incorporate the exhibit opening into that event.

Since the Keller Gallery can be configured in endelss combinations, the next step will be to figure out where to place our walls.  Kathleen will be working on selecting the 25 drawings we will show.

This collaboration marks the first time a retrospective of Brader's work will be exhibited.  We're all very excited to be working together to bring these amazing drawings to the public!

Today is the 80th anniversary of the "B. Virdot" ad!

This ad and editorial appeared in the December 18, 1933 issue of the Repository

Years later, Ted Gup would discover the ad, letters, checks, and thank you notes in this suitcase:

He would publish a wonderful book called A Secret Gift.  And the Museum would have the  opportunity to mark the 80th anniversary of this amazing story of generosity in a 3D way with a Keller Gallery exhibit:

Wishing you all a safe, healthy, and happy holiday season and 2014.  I hope this book continues to inspire us all to help others in need for years to come, "in the spirit of B. Virdot."

Monday, December 16, 2013

Mark your calendars for McKinley Day 2014!

January is a significant month for the McKinley Presidential Library & Museum because we celebrate the President's birthday!

Each year we honor the anniversary of the President’s birth on the last Saturday of January, a tradition that has been observed for over a century. This year McKinley Day will be January 25, 2014.

All of your favorite McKinley Day activities will be back again this year, including an open hearth cooking demonstration (with samples!), Civil War re-enactors, special shows in Discover World, and much more.  This year we will also offer special focus tours in the McKinley Gallery.  Our Museum CafĂ© will again serve lunch.  

A highlight of the festivities is always the moving Wreath Laying Ceremony, where local veterans and a General representing the White House lay wreaths in memory of the President.  As the strains of “Taps” echo in the cold winter air, it is a time to remember the life of Canton’s favorite son, William McKinley.  The ceremony will take place at 3:00 PM, just outside the Museum building.

With all of these activities, you don’t want to miss this fun-filled day for the whole family!

Here are some highlights from last year's Wreath Laying Ceremony, courtesy of the US Army:

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Keller Gallery Schedule for 2014

It's that time of year again!

I'm working on some new ideas for my three-year Keller Gallery plan.  Dates are set for next year, so I thought I'd share them with you now.  Exhibit openings happen on the first date the exhibit is on view from 6:00 to 7:30 PM.  They are always FREE, so mark your calendars now!

(PS -- If you have a great idea for an underwear exhibit title, leave me a comment!!)

Black Wings: American Dreams of Flight      
February 7 - April 27, 2014

The dreams of flight, freedom, and the view from above inspired by the Wright brothers were not segregated, but for almost 50 years after they took to the skies, the paths to the training and expertise necessary to become a pilot were.  This Smithsonian traveling exhibition explores significant figures, events, and themes associated with African Americans in aviation and aerospace history.

May 23 - August 17, 2014

Charles Schulz touched on many aspects of the natural world during the nearly 50 years he created the Peanuts comic strip (October 1950 to February 2000). During the 1950s and 1960s, Schulz’s characters explored aspects of the natural world with wonder and delight, and their cockamamie understanding of the world around them afforded many opportunities to introduce readers of the strip to fun facts about the natural world.

Underwear Exhibit (working title)      
September 5 - November 30, 2014

This new exhibit will examine the history of what we wear under our clothes – from underwear and petticoats to corsets and crinolines.  A fun and entertaining look at a forgotten part of fashion history!

The Legacy of Ferdinand Brader 
December 5, 2014 - March 15, 2015

View the magnificent drawings of itinerant artist Ferdinand A. Brader in the galleries of three museums. Visit the Canton Museum of Art, the McKinley Presidential Library & Museum and the Little Art Gallery in North Canton as they simultaneously celebrate the work of Brader. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Special comments in the Keller Gallery guest book

It just doesn't get any better than this. This is all the endorsement I need! (And then some.)

A Secret Gift is on view in the Keller Gallery through February 2.  Stop by and see it with your holiday guests.  It will warm your heart.  I promise.

(Virginia Stone Gup Sharpe is Sam Stone's daughter and Ted Gup's mother)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Nostalgia as history

This afternoon, as I was signing yet another stack of Canton Entertainment books for Cindy down in the Museum Shoppe, I started thinking about why this book has been so well received. 

The simple answer is this: nostalgia.

It's a powerful thing, nostalgia.  Who doesn't enjoy sitting around a table with old friends and family, saying, "I remember when..."  It's in all of us to honor our own memories of the past.  Nostalgia binds us together as a community in a shared, common experience.  It provides a touchstone for us as time marches on, bringing with it all sorts of changes.

As I've personalized copies of my new book for museum visitors, I've heard many people talk about department stores in downtown Canton they loved to visit, or theaters they regularly patronized, or restaurants they loved to celebrate special occasions.  People are telling stories, their stories.  And isn't history really just stories?  Stories that happen to be true.

I didn't grow up in Canton.  I grew up in Rome, New York.  Admittedly, I know far more about my adopted hometown's history than my actual hometown.  (In my defense, I haven't lived in Rome for 20 years, and I've spent the past 12 years studying Canton's history!) 

But I fall under nostalgia's spell all the same.  I remember going with my grandmother to Goldberg's, an independent department store that closed years ago.  I remember the smell of the perfume counter, the excitement of riding in an elevator, and the endless racks of clothes.  It was probably much smaller than I remember it, like all things when you're just a child!  I only went there with my Grandma Beach.  She's been gone for several years now, so I hold that memory close to my heart.

The high school I graduated from was torn down a few years ago.  I can still picture every single thing about it, from the bus circle to the cafeteria to the weird bridge that connected the "old" building (where my grandfather went to school) and the "new" building.  For those of us who have lost our schools, nostalgia is all we have left.

Griffiss Air Force Base was Rome's largest employer when I was growing up.  The base closed shortly after I went to college, and all of the base housing crumbled into ruins.  Someday, there will be no one left who remembers the cookie cutter homes with their meticulously cut lawns.  (The military police would actually come around with rulers and fine you if your grass was too long!)

The same can be said for much of what is included in Canton Entertainment.  Not many years from now, no one who spent four nights a week dancing at the Moonlight Ballroom will be around to tell us what it was like.  The Palace was once one of several theaters downtown, but today it stands alone.  All that remains of Mother Gooseland, a favorite for those in my generation, is Willie the Whale, who is too stubborn and heavy to move.

I believe in the power of nostalgia.  And one of my favorite parts of my job is rekindling memories for people.  I do dozens of outreach programs and the most popular -- by FAR -- is "Meyers Lake Revisited."  I love seeing people's eyes light up when they talk about the park and the Moonlight Ballroom.  Since the story doesn't have a very happy ending (it "burnt to a miserable crisp" as someone I once knew used to say), I always open up the floor for stories when I'm done.  I've heard about all kinds of first dates and engagements at the Moonlight Ballroom, girls in fancy prom dresses getting stuck at the top of the Comet, neighborhood kids wrangling monkeys back onto Monkey Island. 

And I love the laughter, and sometimes the tears, that these stories bring.

Nostalgia is a powerful part of what museums do.  We are the repository of a community's memories.  We preserve and exhibit and write about these memories for all to enjoy.  Of course not everything we do falls into an era that people can remember.  We honor President McKinley's legacy, the founding of our city and county, the 19th century pioneers and inventors and businessman and socialites and workers who called this place home.  Our Mission is HUGE!  But one of my most favorite parts is connecting people with their own past, and helping them remember their own stories, some of which have been dormant for quite some time.

As we approach the holiday season, I hope you will all take some time to listen to the stories of your parents and grandparents.  Or take the opportunity to share your stories with children and grandchildren.  When someone dies, it's too late.  So do it NOW.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Ted Gup and family

Special thanks to Michelle Mullaly, director of the Canton Symphony Orchestra, for sharing these photos of Ted Gup and his family in our exhibition A Secret Gift!

A Secret Gift concert

What an AMAZING night!

Yesterday was the Canton Symphony Orchestra's "A Very Canton Christmas" concert, featuring the world premiere of Eric Benjamin's piece "A Secret Gift."  It was absolutely fabulous.  There really aren't words to describe how his interpretation of the book lit up the room.  If you were one of the 1400 guests, you know what I'm talking about.  If you weren't, I apologize for my inability to explain music in words.  All I can say is it was awesome.

The piece had a ton of moving parts -- a huge choir, a narrator (author Ted Gup), several additional speaking parts, the orchestra, and a multimedia presentation.  All of it came together beautifully in an orchestral work that honored both Sam Stone's legacy and the people of Canton.

Before the show, while Chris was getting his mic set up (he had one of the speaking parts), I ran into Ted.  I hadn't seen him yet during his busy trip to Canton.  His mom came in last week while he was performing with the Symphony for the Youth Concert.  He and his family had come to see the exhibit on Saturday.

I held my breath, waiting to hear what he thought of the exhibit.  His was the last stamp of approval I wanted.  And I got it. :-)

Like his mother, he wasn't prepared for how big the exhibit was.  He told me I had come at it from so many angles, and he really enjoyed it.  I was thrilled!

But the reason this exhibit has been so successful is because Ted gave us all such a wonderful story to work with.  He has repeatedly said it's not "his" story, but "our" story.  And all of us who were fortunate enough to have a part in this One Book, One Community collaboration truly embraced that idea.  We each made the story part of ourselves, and our organizations, and we presented it to the public to celebrate this amazing act of generosity.

I am so grateful that I had the chance to participate in this wonderful collaboration.  I install three exhibits a year in the Keller Gallery, and I've been here 12 years.  Although some exhibits are traveling shows, I estimate I've created, from scratch, nearly 30 exhibitions during my time here.  And this one is definitely one of my favorites.

It has been a highlight of my career!  It's not often that we get the chance to tell local history through the lens of American history as a whole.  The letters written to B. Virdot illustrate the Great Depression in a way that historians cannot.  These voices from the past resonate with us because they are raw, uninterpreted words.  That is the strength of this story, which was translated into a play, a walking tour, an exhibition, and an orchestral piece.  Each one conveyed this power and delivered it into the hands of all who witnessed it.

If you have not yet seen our exhibit A Secret Gift, it is on view through February 2.  It's not simply a "display of letters."  It is so much more than that.  Please stop in and see it for yourself.

This is the suitcase that carried the letters to Ted, so he could share them with the world.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Ted Gup's mom visited A Secret Gift!

This morning Virginia Stone Gup Sharpe, also known as "Ted Gup's mom," visited A Secret Gift in the Keller Gallery! 

She asked if she could sit behind her father's desk and have her picture taken.  She wasn't expecting as much as what we have in the exhibit.  She was amazed! 

She spent some time watching the home movies of her family, and wanted to sit in the office scene for awhile to "reminisce."

Between this exhibit and the new book, my heart is so full with the joy I've brought into people's lives.  I am eternally grateful for the opportunity I have been given to help preserve and share local history.

If you haven't seen A Secret Gift yet, it's on view through February 2.  But don't wait until after the holidays.  This story has even more impact at this time of year...

Unique gifts in the Museum Shoppe

There are literally hundreds of great gift ideas in our Museum Shoppe.  This is just a sampling of what you'll find!

Did you know you don't have to pay an admission fee if you only want to visit the Museum Shoppe?  Just stop at the Admissions Window and let them know you want to visit the Shoppe.  Members receive a discount, so don't forget your membership card!

Check out these gift ideas...

Gearing up for our Holiday Open House tomorrow night!

Tomorrow night is one of the staff's favorite events of the whole year -- our Holiday Open House!

Rather than simply tell you how wonderful it is, I thought I'd show you.  Below are some of the photos from last year's event, plus some new pictures of this year's holiday decorations.

Members are FREE and guests are just $5.  We hope to see you tomorrow!

Highlights from 2012

Complimentary cookies!


Christopher Pop-In-Kins

The Winter Princess

Homemade donuts over the open fire!

This Year's Decorations
It's so hard to get good pictures of Christmas trees all lit up!  Come in and see them in person!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Ad for a Dueber Grand bicycle

There is no date on the page itself, but an ad on the reverse side mentions the year 1898.

Our Archivist Mark Holland found this ad for the "Dueber Grand" bicycle we received as a donation a few weeks ago!  Click here for that blog post, which includes several photos of the bike.

The bicycle we have is the ladies version, which is shown on the bottom of the ad.  You can see a fancy chain guard that is no longer with our bike.  You can also see the back fender that came only on the ladies bike.  In the image, you can make out the strings that were strung through the holes on the top which helped to keep a woman's skirt from getting tangled up in the spokes.  Ours still has the fender, but only fragments of the strings are left at the hub of the wheel.

We are working on a plan to get this bike into The Stark County Story exhibit.  Hopefully over the winter we will be able to make that happen.  We had contemplated having it restored, but it's so rare, we think it might be better to leave it as is.

Note that the ad describes the bike as a "Riding Wheel."  

UPDATE:  Mark just found another ad for the bike!  Here is that one too:

Monday, December 2, 2013

Publicity for Canton Entertainment!

UPDATE: Thank you to everyone who has come in today to buy the book after seeing the fantastic article in the Rep!  I've been signing books all day for people who are coming in and buying 2 at a time to give as gifts!

Canton Entertainment has been getting some great publicity!

Click here for an article in The Repository by Gary Brown. 

Click here for an article in the Massillon Independent by David Harpster.

Writing this book has truly been a joy.  I've seen so many people's faces light up when they see pictures of their "old haunts" that take them back to another time.  I knew this book would resonate the moment the idea crystalized in my mind. This is why I do what I do, and I'm grateful for the opportunity I've been given to make history relevant to people's lives. 

So many of the wonderful department stores and theaters and amusement parks in the book are gone now.  All that we have left are memories...and wonderful images from the past.

But Canton's cultural organizations stand out as pillars in our community.  The Canton Museum of Art, the Canton Symphony Orchestra, the Player's Guild, the McKinley Presidential Library & Museum and so many others continue to do great things for Canton residents and beyond.  We compete for that precious leisure time dollar, which is harder and harder to get these days.  In the changing face of the tourism industry, we're all working hard to bring great exhibits, programs, concerts, plays, and performances to the masses.  And in 100 years from now, we'll be celebrating the legacy of the rebirth of downtown through the creation of the Canton Arts District too.

This is an exciting time to be living in Canton!

PS -- I'm doing a Book Signing this Friday at the Museum's Holiday Open House from 6:30 to 7:30 PM.  I'd be happy to personalize a book for you or to give as a gift. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping!

UPDATE:  Someone asked what perecentage the Museum receives for an online purchase through  The simple answer is, it varies!  Each retailer has a different arrangement with, but you can see what the deal is before you shop.  Usually it is somewhere between 1% and 3% of your total purchase.

You will see the donation amount after you choose your Museum Partner and select a retailer.  I just checked Amazon for an example, and they donate 2.5% of your total purchase.

Create a free donation when you shop online for the Holidays

First and foremost, we hope you SHOP LOCAL this holiday season -- especially at the Museum Shoppe!

But if you plan to do some shopping online....please click through first and choose us the McKinley Presidential Library as your Museum Partner!  You shop at your favorite online retailers as you normally would, but a percentage of your total cost is donated to us -- at NO COST to you!

There are some exclusive Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals through ShopforMuseums too.  So please click before you buy!

If you have any questions about this program, please leave me a comment and I'll try to answer it for you.  (The comments come to my email before they go live, so you only have to send your question once!)