OXFORD — The Oxford Historical Society Museum will be opening their doors to the public once again after a two-year shutdown due to COVID and flood damage. A free-admission grand reopening will take place on Thursday, June 9, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the museum, located at 1 Depot Street in Oxford.
The museum resides in Oxford's former railroad depot, which was leased from the village in the mid-1970's to be used as the Oxford Historical Society Museum. President Fred Lanfear took over in 1993, and has been keeping the museum running since.
In both 2006 and 2013 the building suffered major floods, which caused water damage, mold, and destroyed many artifacts. Later, a steam pipe burst and did further damage, and then the COVID-19 pandemic forced the museum to shut its doors.
"I went in the fall to donate something, and I noticed that the place really needed some work, and the comment was made that we just need volunteers. So I'm thinking, well I guess that’s my calling," said volunteer Diane Branham. "They have so much damage from two previous floods, and then COVID was just the icing on the cake, and they just were not able to open up their doors and get things ready for the public."
Branham worked to recruit volunteers to assist in the cleaning, repairing, renovating, and reorganization of the depot. While some artifacts were irreparably damaged from the flooding, many have been salvaged and put back out on display.
"Since October, this museum has gone through a major refresh, remodel, and reorganization. Every room has been de-molded, repaired, and painted. Each artifact has been cleaned, identified, photographed, and displayed," said Branham, adding that the load was made lighter thanks to the help of approximately 25 volunteers.
"Many tasks went into our success story, from cleaning walls, woodwork, windows and display cases, to sorting, filing, and photographing. There were also many who helped with construction repair, heavy duty tasks, hanging photos, and electrical work," she continued. "In the middle of all these tasks, we successfully ran a membership drive, adding to our members and business sponsorships. Within our small village and township, we had 15 businesses who helped support our cause."
After eight months of hard work, the Oxford Historical Society Museum is finally ready to open back up to the public. During Thursday's event, the museum will be fully open for guests to enjoy the displays and take in the depot's new look.
"Everybody will get to see all the new beautiful displays," said Branham. "We’ve set the museum up kind of by departments. There’s military, and there’s distinguished citizens, there’s a textile, there’s our new Academy Room, and that’s a new area that we've established. So there’s a new, established Academy Room, there is a railroad section, and there's an agricultural and construction area."
Other departments in the museum include business, glassware, village parks, and a department dedicated to "smalls."
"People refer to them as smalls, but what that means is if you had a bicycle shop, they might have made a small ruler that had their name on it, and an ashtray, and a flier, and back in the old days like a hand fan, and things of that nature," Branham explained.
Some departments have even been tied in to the building's history and structure as well, such as the railroad department which is located around the depot's original ticket window.
"The original glass, the word 'tickets,' the original wood, how you slide it up and then push it back down, the black wrought iron rails that were to keep people from going to the other side. I mean, it’s all there, it’s all in beautiful shape," said Branham. "It’s very, very pretty, and it has the original woodwork in there and our volunteers have gone through and cleaned that and got all the mold off it and everything else."
The Oxford Fire Department has also offered volunteer services for the reopening event, and will be assisting with traffic flow and parking.
"It's kind of a goofy area, and if one person starts parking crazy and at a wrong angle, then it can goof up everybody. Then you have people blocked in," said Branham. "So they met with me today and came up with a plan for how they’re going to arrange that parking area, and so obviously their time of volunteering their time is greatly appreciated by us, who also have to work off volunteers."
Complimentary drinks and desserts will be provided at the open house, and local musician Grady Thompson will be performing on the deck. Those interested in becoming a member of the Oxford Historical Society will be able to sign up and donate during the open house as well.
Attendees can also participate in a 50/50 raffle at 8 p.m., where tickets are $2 each or $5 for three tickets, and check out the merchandise table, where volunteers will be selling historical merchandise such as blankets, books, postcards, old yearbooks, and more.
After the grand reopening, the Oxford Historical Society Museum will be open every Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m. and by appointment. They will also be open for some events, such as Oxford's Alumni Weekend on Saturday, July 30, and a community band concert and ice cream social on August 4, and will have a booth at the Oxford Farmers' Market on the last Saturdays of June, July, August, and September.
Although lots of work has already been done on the museum, Branham said there is still much more to do.
"When I approached them and said that I could help and volunteer, I said I see it as a two to three year process," she said. "Digitizing the whole collection, because nothing had been digitized at all, no photographs, nothing. So everything that’s out on display right now has been photographed, and I’m in the process of setting it up as a digital museum as well."
"We are finally ready to open up our doors and have people coming back in again, and now what’s left for us to do is to continue to add to our collection, and further digitize everything, and get the files in order, and our reference books in order, and that kind of thing," she added. "Because that’s all part of it, it’s not just setting things out that say Oxford on it, it’s a whole process and it’s going to take a while ...
So trying to bring it into this century, just for protection because it’s something that needs to be done."
More information on the Oxford Historical Society Museum can be found on the Oxford Historical Society Facebook page. Those interested in volunteering or donating an artifact can contact Diane Branham at 607-334-4243, or Fred Lanfear at 607-821-1223.