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Wabash County Museum's history

The Museum was established in March 1923 in the coal bin in the basement of the Wabash County Courthouse. The First Director of the Museum was Leona Hockett.


In 1953, the Museum had outgrown the basement and was moved to Memorial Hall, the GAR building beside the courthouse. The formal dedication of Memorial Hall was in October 1899. It was constructed of Bedford Sandstone. In the early 2000s, this structure was incorporated into what is now the Wabash County Justice Center. At this time, the director was Mary C O’Hara. She made the first attempt to formally catalog the collection. Despite the fact that she retired in the 1970s, she was never able to fully capture all of the items in the collection. 


In 1971, Commander Bill Gray became the director.  The Museum remained in it's location in Memorial Hall for the citizens of Wabash County to enjoy. 


In the 1980s, Jack Miller was the director of the Museum. He and his wife, Bea, ran and promoted the Museum through 1999 when the decision was made to find a new, more modern home for the Museum.  In 2000, the committee working to find a new location for the Museum acquired its current location at 36 East Market Street in downtown Wabash. 


Over 100 years ago, the Railroad created the Big Four Department store in this location. Over the years, this building has hosted a variety of businesses including furniture stores, undertaking services, garment manufacturers, Sears, Roebuck & Company, a bar, a hair salon, a pool hall, and even a church. By the mid-1990’s the building stood vacant. By the mid-1990’s the building stood vacant until the City of Wabash sold it to the Wabash County Historical Museum for $1.00 and the renovation project began. 


Formations Inc., an internationally known exhibit and design company based in Oregon created the original exhibits. Lisa Ivesson was hired as director to oversee the renovations and the Museum started tracking our collection using Past Perfect software. While the original motto for the new Museum was “Coming to you in 2002”, the Museum grand opened the first floor in 2005 and completed the 2nd floor in 2006. The final cost of creating this Museum was more than $6 million. The next two directors were Stephen Stewart followed by Tracy Stewart (2006 to 2013). Tracy was  followed by Mitch Figert from 2014 - 2020.


During Figert's time with the Museum, the decision was made to use the space that had been designed for traveling exhibits as a children’s education and play center. In 2017, The Den was created. Utilizing significant space on the south end of the 2nd floor, The Den attracts young families and creates daily traffic. 


In 2020, phase 2 of The Den project was completed, adding a designated age 0-3 space. Also in 2017, the public name of the Museum was changed from Wabash County Historical Museum to Wabash County Museum.  


In August 2020, the Museum completed work on digital historic walking tours using the PocketSights app that can be utilized by locals and guests to the community as they tour different areas of the downtown. The three tours take viewers to Downtown Wabash, North Wabash, and West Wabash to different historical buildings and houses. Users are informed about the architecture and the people and businesses that used to occupy each building. Each of these tours is a mile or two in length. The current three tours were inspired by the previous printed walking guides published by Wabash Marketplace.  Since those guides are no longer in circulation, the Museum had looked for a way to recreate these historic tours in a more sustainable way.  The Museum worked with local photographer, Greg Coon, to provide current day photographs for each site. This project was funded by Historic Preservation Education Grant from Indiana Landmarks, Indiana Humanities, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.


In 2021, the Museum's 9th director, Teresa Galley, took the reins. Since that time, efforts have begun to make the Museum more inclusive. These efforts include the addition of exhibits that focus on People of Color and Women who impacted Wabash County's history. Sensory friendly updates have begun including work to cut down on noise and distractions between exhibits and a sensory quiet zone is currently under construction. It will be accessible to all who need it. Plans open this area in January 2024

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