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Editorial: Local museums bring community history alive

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Monday and Tuesday were Museums Advocacy Days, which organizers describe as “an invaluable, annual opportunity to advance the cause of our museums and the work of those who lead and support them.”

You won’t find them noted on many calendars, and you certainly won’t find a rack of greeting cards at the store. In fact, most of the days’ activities involve museum leaders visiting members of Congress to emphasize the role of American museums and probably to push for additional federal funding.

However, the days are a good excuse to assess the value of museums, especially locally.

Johnson County is blessed to have a pair of interesting museums that help tell the story of our community — the Johnson County Museum of History in Franklin and the Camp Atterbury Museum west of Edinburgh.

The former is clearly the better known of the two. Housed in a classic building, it portrays the history of the area through a variety of exhibits, covering not just the founding of the county during the pioneer days of the early 1800s but also its growth through the 19th and 20th centuries.

In addition, special exhibits are created throughout the year focusing on particular topics. For example, recent displays have honored local artists. The current exhibition explores the history of the Masonic order, which is particularly fitting given the presence of the Indiana Masonic Home retirement community in Franklin and the fact that the museum is located in a former Masonic temple.

If you go

What: Johnson County Museum of History

Where: 135 N. Main St., Franklin

Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday

Information: 346-4500, johnsoncountymuseum.org

What: Camp Atterbury Museum

Where: Hospital Road west of Edinburgh

Hours: 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday

Information: 812-526-1499 ext. 61744

The museum also offers a variety of special programs throughout the year, including a summer history camp, special lectures and presentations, and a heritage day in the fall, when a variety of displays and activities celebrate the county’s pioneer heritage.

The Camp Atterbury Museum is housed in the post’s welcome center on the north side of Hospital Road across from the main gate. Being outside the post itself means visitors can come and go without having to go through security checkpoints.

The displays offer a visual timeline of the camp, from land acquisition and its opening in 1942, its training role during World War II and the Korean War, its postwar role and its return to prominence during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Just to the west and across the road is a static display of military vehicles that would have been common sights at the camp during different periods of its history.

Museums not only capture important aspects of the past and preserve large and small reminders of earlier times, they also offer a perspective on the past that can help people understand how the past shapes us today.

We celebrate the success of the two local museums. They are more than time capsules and offer a contextual view of history.

In both cases, they bring the past alive for today’s visitors.

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