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Memberships important to museum operations

If Jerry Peak, director of the Pioneer Museum of Alabama, could have a wish for the museum in 2010, it would be for the museum’s membership to double and for the number of volunteers to triple.

And, given the many advantages of membership and the variety of volunteer opportunities, Peak’s wishes could come true.

The Pioneer Museum of Alabama is a prime tourist attraction for the county and an educational, recreational and entertainment resource for the community.

The museum spans an era from 1800 to 1930 and the main building houses more than 18,000 artifacts with another 2,000 artifacts in the historic outbuildings.

“The museum is located on more than 40 acres of beautiful wooded land with picnic areas and nature trails,” Peak said. “We have has 27 outbuildings, a covered bridge and an amphitheater. Also on the grounds is the privately owned Conecuh River Depot, which is a military museum.”

The museum is a non-profit organization and is funded almost entirely by donations, memberships and self-generating income.

“Memberships provide a source of income for the museum and are very important to our programs and operations,” Peak said. “Some members are also volunteers who have an interest in what we do to preserve the past.”

Peak said there are benefits for both members and volunteers.

“Members are admitted free to the museum and its events for a year from the date of membership,” Peak said. “They also receive a 10 percent discount on all items in the gift shop other than consignment items and they receive our newsletter throughout the year.”

Memberships are great values, especially, for families.

An annual individual membership is $20 and a family membership is $35.

Other levels of annual membership and support are Preserver, $50; Sustainer, $100; Pioneer, $250; Patron, $500 and Underwriter, $1,000.

Museum volunteers may choose an area of special interest and may volunteer as much or as little time as their lifestyle allows.

“We need volunteers who enjoy working outdoors and those who would like to be tour guides and demonstrators,” Peak said. “We have some volunteers who specialize in one or two areas of interest. They learn about those areas and then share what they have learned with visitors.”

Volunteers are also needed to stuff envelopes, help with the upkeep of the buildings and artifacts and assist with special events.

The upcoming special events include the Sacred Harp Singing on Feb. 13, which could attract as many as 200 shape note singers. The annual Butter Churning, Syrup Sopping Saturday is held in May and will highlight the different ways ethnic groups “fix breakfast.”

A Flag Retirement Ceremony is planned for June and different members of the Armed Forces will participate in the disposal of the nation’s Stars and Stripes.

Pioneer Days in October is one of the museum’s biggest events. The museum becomes a living history classroom for students and a widow to the past for adults.

Old Time Christmas has become a Christmas tradition for many individuals and families and is a very popular event.

“This year, we are hoping to work with the Pike County Chamber of Commerce to host an event for Halloween,” Peak said. “The children will be able to ‘trick or treat’ at several of the cabins in a contained and safe environment.”

The Pioneer Museum of Alabama opened in 1971 and continues to grow with the addition of artifacts, the acquisition on buildings, the development of facilities and the expansion of exhibits, events and symposiums.

All Pike County residents are invited to become a part of the Pioneer Museum of Alabama family through memberships, as volunteers or as frequent visitors to the past.

For more information or to become a member or a volunteer, call 334-566-3597.