Historical Society needs new archives

Plans are in the works to replace the aging cottage, a former railroad depot, which is home to the historical society archives. (Staff photo)

Plans are in the works to replace the aging cottage, left, which is home to the historical society archives. (Staff photo)

By Terri Spilman

History is in the making inside of the aging and dusty rose-colored cottage nestled along the Monon Trail. As Carmel continues to grow, so does the volume of precious historical archives and records housed in the cottage that is home to the Carmel Clay Historical Society.

According to Jennifer Hershberger, the historical society board’s president, the 900-square-foot space has long been outgrown and is plagued with a variety of issues: a lack of storage space, work space and climate-controlled storage areas as well as limited research and event space. Asbestos issues also make the building a health risk.

“It is not a place that allows the society to be a welcoming environment to the community at large or researchers – for which (the historical society) is in existence to serve,” Hershberger said. “In fact, the space has actually become an impediment for people to entrust them with their historical treasures.”

That’s why the historical society is currently drawing up plans to build a new archive facility on the grounds of the historic depot next to the Monon Trail. The society also plans to kick off a fundraising campaign to raise money for the project.

Society spokeswoman Melisa Keiser said, “We have such a need for it. The (current) building is literally falling apart.”

The historical society is completing work with a consultant, Maureen Mercho, who conducted a feasibility study as part of the strategic plan for the organization to have better connections with people throughout the community.

“It has been a really informative process for them in which they came out a lot stronger,” Mercho said. “They wanted to know how they could be a good community group, how can they best serve the community and be fiscally responsible while still being sustainable.”

Future plans include replacing the current archive building on the same footprint to provide a larger facility. Plans include meeting space for use by outside groups, research space and climate controlled areas for delicate artifacts while creating a more-campus like feel with the Monon Depot Museum.

The Monon Depot Museum is located adjacent to the archives building and was recently listed on the National Register of Historical Places. The Museum features historical exhibits and hosts frequent school and scout group tours as part of the mandated school curriculum.

Mercho said the historical society is currently bidding out construction and proposed plans still need board approval before any final decisions are announced.

For more information about the Carmel Historical Society or to volunteer, visit carmelclayhistory.org.

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