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Museum sets new mark

Features Editor

When the Pike Pioneer Museum changed its name to the Pioneer Museum of Alabama, it did so for good reason.

The scope of the museum reaches far beyond the county lines and never has its wide appeal been more evident than it was Monday when two milestone announcements were made that set the course for the future of the museum.

At a reception honoring the museum for being chosen to host a Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition, Museum Director Charlotte Gibson also took the opportunity to announce a goal of $550,000 for the museum’s "Preserving the Past for the Future" campaign.

On behalf of the museum, Curren Farmer, founder of the museum, accepted a ceremonial check in the amount of $471,550 from Gibson and Patricia Barnes, a member of the board of the directors. That amount represents commitments for 86 percent of the Phase I goal of the museum’s long-range capital campaign which is $2.5 million.

The campaign began "quietly" in January 2002 and has met with tremendous support and success.

Barnes said the museum’s board of directors didn’t want to embark on such an ambitious capital campaign unless they thought the goal was realistic.

"It’s difficult to ask people to contribute to a campaign unless you know that you can raise the money," Barnes said, adding that the initial contributions indicate that the museum’s long-range goal is doable.

"The contributions have come from private citizens, manufacturers, banks and companies and they have come from across the state. Troy is known as the home of Troy State University and one day, I believe, it will also be known as the home of the Pioneer Museum of Alabama."

Barnes expressed appreciation to all of those who made the Phase I "quiet" capital campaign a success, including the museum’s board of directors and the campaign executive planning committee. She also expressed confidence that the now "public" capital campaign will provide the necessary funds to complete Phase I and then Phase II and Phase III.

Gibson said Phase I of the campaign will enhance the quality of the museum and its ability to preserved and display the pioneer heritage of Alabama.

"A reception area and handicapped accessible restrooms will be added to the main exhibit hall," she said. "Security to protect the 18,000 artifacts will be improved through the use of electronic equipment. Audio effects that will provide information and explanations about the exhibits will be added, allowing visitors to view the museum at their own pace. Also, the museum’s endowment will be replenished and the Hands-on-History Program will be expanded to serve more school children, teachers, and adults than ever before."

The announcement of the museum’s capital campaign, coupled with the reception honoring the museum for being chosen as a host for the Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition, "Yesterday’s Tomorrows," is one indication of the opportunities provided for teachers, students and the general public at the museum.

Dr. Lee Shackleford, scholar with the Smithsonian exhibit, said ray-guns, robots, the Atom Bomb House and a nuclear-powered car are all part of the "Yesterday’s Tomorrows" exhibition.

"Yesterday’s Tomorrows offers a unique history of expectations and beliefs about the shape of things to come," Shackleford said. " It’s an exciting exhibition of ideas of those who lived 50 to 100 years ago as to what life would be like today The ideas are fanciful, outlandish and interesting, but dead wrong."

The exhibit uses objects from popular culture, including toys, books, movies, World’s Fair memorabilia, car designs, advertisements and architectural designs to examine the ways in which Americans of the 20th century have envisioned their collective future. The exhibit will enlighten viewers about the past and challenge them to imagine what life will be like 50 years from now.

The "Yesterday’s Tomorrows" exhibition will be at the museum Nov. 17 through Dec. 27.

At the same time, two other exhibits – a doll exhibit and model train exhibit – will be on display at the museum. During the six-week exhibition period the three exhibits are expected to bring about 4,000 visitors to the museum.

Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford said the Pioneer Museum of Alabama is one of the county’s greatest treasures.

"The museum brings tourists to our area and much positive recognition to our county," Lunsford said. "But, its greatest wealth is in the educational opportunities it provides for our young people. An old adage, says that you can’t know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been. The museum shows our young people where they have been and helps them set a course for the future. We congratulate the museum’s staff, board of directors and volunteers on a job well done."