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  • Problems bedevil Historical Society

    Volunteer pool shrinks, exhibits are stale and permanent home still has yet to materialize
  • TALENT — A former director of the Talent Historical Society museum says volunteer help is dwindling, and the museum's quality is suffering.
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  • TALENT — A former director of the Talent Historical Society museum says volunteer help is dwindling, and the museum's quality is suffering.
    Displays are dusty, and no new exhibits have been installed for six years, former director Jan Wright told the City Council during public input at Wednesdays' meeting.
    "I think it's a valuable asset," said Wright. She thanked the city for its support over the years.
    Located in the former library at 105 N. Market St., the society pays the city $100 per month in rent. Camelot Theatre in turn rents the historical society's space for rehearsals, which helps defray utility expenses.
    Both Wright and society Secretary Katherine Harris, who spoke to the council on June 18, praised society President Bob Casebeer but said he simply doesn't have enough help to handle everything.
    "There are absolutely no volunteers. If you put something on, they come, but there's just no help," Harris said earlier Wednesday.
    "I love Bob to death, but he can't do it by himself," said Wright.
    Rent revenue does not cover city maintenance costs, said City Manager Tom Corrigan. The city recently spent nearly $2,000 to have limbs on a large tree that overhung the building removed, he said. City workers also removed an older sidewalk adjacent to the building that had been buckled by tree roots.
    Corrigan said the city plans to install new carpet in the building. Roots have also cracked the interior floor.
    "It's an old building," said Corrigan. He is awaiting a report from a state fire marshal who inspected the building in June to see if there are additional problems.
    Talent's Food Pantry uses part of the building for storage and distribution under a separate agreement with the city.
    Mayor Bill Cecil said during the meeting that the former library is not an ideal location for the food bank and he would like to see a community effort to secure a more appropriate site.
    Preservation and security of exhibits and other property in the museum is also in question, with open access to the area during distribution days.
    "Half the stuff isn't under lock and key," said Harris. "There's the opportunity to take stuff away."
    Wright was the paid director of the museum from 2003 to 2009 while Jackson County slowly eliminated payments to historical societies in the county. The museum moved into the former library in 2007 from a small space in the current Community Center.
    Casebeer said Friday that he shares many of Wright's concerns, but that there are efforts being made to maintain the museum.
    New displays have been put up over the years, the latest one on late county Commissioner Jack Walker, said Casebeer. An archivist-in-training from an experience work program was recently able to dust the collection, he said.
    "The biggest problem that we have is we only have five members on the board; we can have 11 or so," said Casebeer. "Without more board members, we are limited in how well we can function."
    Museum membership is at 140, but half of those live outside Talent. There are only about three or four active volunteers, said Casebeer.
    After last week's meeting, Wright and Councilor Ryan Pederson, who are both society board members, discussed ways in which the city might be able to help.
    Wright said Eagle Point and Phoenix both support their historical societies financially. Pederson said regular financial aid would have to be approved through the next city budget process, which would begin in spring for the 2015-16 fiscal year.
    Use of student interns might be one way to help the society's efforts, Pederson suggested.
    A new Community Center will be built in the coming year with a $1.5 million federal grant. Wright asked about moving the museum into the current Community Center, while leaving the other site for the Food Pantry. Pederson said the city will look at future uses for the 1899 building, which was originally the town's schoolhouse.
    Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.
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