Over the past 100 years, several groups have attempted to create a museum dedicated to Lebanon’s history.
“They’ve been trying to start a museum since the 1900s,” said Lebanon mayor Paul Aziz, who is leading the latest such effort. “There’s been records, I think of 1920, there’s one in the 50’s, one in the 70’s. This last one started in the 90’s and ended five or six years ago.”
This campaign, however, is different, Aziz said. In the past, groups focused their efforts on finding a home for the museum. In this round, the focus so far has been on building the collection and identifying key staff, such as curator Thonni Morikawa.
She brings experience as a manuscript curator and general collections curator and has worked with the state governments in both Nevada and California.
What Morikawa needs now is a place to work. Much of the group’s collection is being stored at the Lebanon Public Library. But the space is small and there is no way that Morikawa can catalogue items in this space.
“The biggest issue I have is that it’s all shoved into a tiny room,” Morikawa said. “Because of the limited space, it cannot be catalogued. If I were to be hit by a bus tomorrow, there are stories that would no longer be attached to those pieces. In the world of curation, that’s called the provenance.”
The Lebanon Museum Foundation is looking for a space where the collection can be safely stored and which will also provide Morikawa room to examine and document items.
“We have a collection, we have a curator, we’ve got stuff and we’ve got no place to put it,” Aziz said.
The ideal location would be in some sort of office setting, Aziz said. The foundation is seeking a location which offers:
A minimum of 800 to 2,000 square feet.
Easy entry doorways, preferably first floor or elevator accessible.
A securable area (or room to build it) – not located in a basement.
AC/Heat/Humidity Control if at all possible.
Inexpensive rent or free usage. There is a possible tax deduction for donating space to a non-profit organization.
The Lebanon Museum Foundation has already received about 10 display cases for future use, but there isn’t an immediate need for a location which will allow for public viewing of the collection. The plan is for collections to be displayed online as they are created.
Among the highlights of the collection so far is a large assortment of vintage telephones and equipment, including a switchboard, which were used locally. The group has also received donations of World War I clothing which was worn by people such as Frank Graves, who played a key role in Lebanon’s history.
There is also a collection of items from the former Lebanon Middle School, including a shield which was used by its marching band.
“There’s a few pieces in here that are pretty darn amazing,” Aziz said.
The first goal is to get everything properly stored so these items are available to be viewed for generations to come.
“They have suffered from humidity, temperature, and in some cases, light,” Morikawa said.
Aziz said he is new to the world of museum curation. What he has learned is that once items are donated, it is a great responsibility to properly care for them.