Museum restoration nears completion

A BROKEN pipe resulting in water damages in a museum seems like a disaster, but John Mattox of the Underground Railroad Museum in Flushing takes an optimistic view.

Referring to the broken pipe, Mattox said, “It has been a blessing in disguise. We’ve been able to reposition and reinterpret many artifacts not damaged by water. I have been so fortunate to have the support of all the community that appreciates this museum in the Upper Ohio Valley and without their help and support, we would not be able to continue – thanks, thanks, thanks.”

Just a few days ago, Mattox reported on the touch-up work being done, noting it will be completed by Monday.

Like the runaway slaves in the antebellum days, those at the museum were able to overcome problems to return the museum to full operation. The escaped slaves sometimes faced storms, ice and heat, but the museum’s problems were internal.

Extensive damages occurred Feb. 1 when a pipe on an upper floor broke with water leaking down to the lower floor and basement, damaging memorabilia including books, papers, posters and items related to slavery in the display rooms. Five rooms in the museum had to be recarpeted, and the museum office had to be renovated.

A historical museum curator explained to Mattox how to save papers and books.

The museum focuses on slavery and the Underground Railroad, but it also includes sports memorabilia and pictures related to Flushing. Mattox, who is curator and co-founder of the museum with his wife, Rozz (Rosalind), now deceased, said the museum library has new signage, and the music display room and athletic memorabilia room are up and running.

He added there’s a special area for the Nancy Toto collection. The binders from Toto feature photographs and information related to the area’s history as well as other important events.

Some changes have been made in the office for A Special Wish Foundation. Mattox is president of the Ohio Valley Chapter of that group and also heads its National Board of Governors.

Although the work is expected to be completed by Monday, some tours previously were possible for small groups in the facility. Normal operating hours are Tuesdays through Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and other days by appointment. Those wishing to reach Mattox for appointments or museum information are to call 740-968-2080 or 740-968-6113.

“Because of the history of the Underground Railroad and the museum’s association with this area, people of all walks of life are coming to the museum,” Mattox said.

He also told of a sign hanging in the museum. The sign donated by Frank D. Calabrese, notes, “Hate is not a family value.”

When mentioning that saying, the curator added, “We preach that here in the museum. We can’t blame today’s society for the ills of the past, but we can recognize the efforts of all of our ancestors.”

Pointing out that he appreciated the efforts of volunteers, Mattox sent a “letter to the editor,” which is included in today’s newspaper.

Included in the letter are more than 40 names, but he also wanted to give special recognition to some of them for their ideas, support and work. He mentioned Yvonne Myers of the Belmont County District Library, Cathy Bennett of Belmont College, the Belmont County Tourism Council, Dr. Paul Abraham of Ohio University Eastern, Steve Novotny, Pam Ewusiak and Cindy Schnitzlein.

Noting he appreciated the community putting the museum back in shape, he added, “It was just wonderful!”