Matt Gotsch, WNDU
WALKERTON, Ind. (WNDU) – The Walkerton Heritage Museum is set to open at its new location tomorrow, [May 5].
Since 1983, the Walkerton Area Historical Society has been off the beaten path, but starting tomorrow, they will be right in the heart of town.
“The (Walkerton Area) Historical Society was actually founded in 1983, but we were kind of just kept in the library; we had a room in the library,” says Morgan Wilson, Treasurer for the Walkerton Area Historical Society. “Then we grew, which is always great, the growth trajectory is exciting, and then we were in a building right off of US 6, kind of behind some businesses, so this is great because its right on US 6, it’s right next to the library; we’re kind of in the center of the entire community, so it’s a really great location, and we’re excited to be there.”
The Walkerton Area is made up of five townships, four counties, and two times zones, and the Historical Society is helping unite all of them under one roof.
This new museum will highlight more than 150 years of Walkerton History and attempt to bring that history to life through slideshow presentations, audiotapes, and microfilm of local newspapers.
“I think we just wanted people to be able to interact with history, so we have some great interactive stations where they can share their stories, which will all be cataloged and kept for posterity,” Wilson said. “So, it’ll be fascinating for them to share that, share their experiences. We have many great artifacts on display, so having people see things they pass every day don’t know the history of and having that shown for them is going to be great.”
The building was the former home to the Walkerton Bureau of Motor Vehicles, right on US 6, where residents can easily pop in.
The museum emphasizes three main themes: family, community, and work, with each piece lending a hand to tell the story of Walkerton.
“So we actually focused on three main themes, family, community, and work,” Wilson said. “These are things that happen everywhere, but specifically in our area, it’s been an exciting change, but studying that change through those lenses is going to be important to our story, so we introduce that in the intro panel, and then people can walk through and explore those themes more.”
Just as South Bend can draw its roots from the St. Joseph River, Walkerton’s past and present are shaped by metal, specifically, the rails.
“The railroad specifically really changed our area, and it changed industry completely,” Wilson said. “Walkerton was a main stop on the railroad, so the industry there, the marshes that were there, the dredging of the Kankakee, all those things kind of shaped that area very interestingly, so trying to spotlight that is really cool.”
This museum is all volunteer-run and was funded by private donors, including the Hiler family, who donated the building to the Historical Society.
“Usually, a museum would have an entire staff dedicated to this process, but we are all volunteers, so we have been putting in quite a few hours to make sure that this comes to fruition, so it’s exciting to see it finally being done,” Wilson said. “I just hope people can make it out and enjoy what we’ve put together. You know, it’s a true community-led effort. A community member donated the space, we all live in the community, and community members funded it; this has all been a very near and dear thing to our hearts, so seeing it happen is really exciting, and we hope that community members and people not in our community (will visit) because there’s something here for everyone, so having all these people come out will be really satisfying, and we hope people learn and love it.”
The five townships in the Walkerton Area are Johnson, Lincoln, Polk, Liberty, and Oregon Townships.
The four counties are St. Joseph, Laporte, Starke, and Marshall.
The time zones are the Eastern and Central time zones.
May hours for the Walkerton Heritage Museum are Fridays from 5 to 9 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission to the museum is free, but donations are always appreciated.
The location of the new Walkerton Heritage Museum is 302 Roosevelt Road in Walkerton, IN (US 6).
For more information, click the link at the top of the page, or head to the Walkerton Heritage Museum’s Facebook page.