Historical museum tells the story of Huntington County and its residents

Linda Wilson, left, adjusts a jacket on a mannequin at the Huntington County Historical Museum recently as Richard Newell looks on. The two volunteers were preparing the Veteran’s Day exhibit at the museum.
Linda Wilson, left, adjusts a jacket on a mannequin at the Huntington County Historical Museum recently as Richard Newell looks on. The two volunteers were preparing the Veteran’s Day exhibit at the museum. Photo by Jessica Williams.

Originally published Nov. 9, 2009.

There's only one place in the entire county that citizens can visit to learn about the history of where they are living, says Pat Bergdall, director of the Huntington County Historical Museum.

Bergdall, originally from California, is a retired schoolteacher who has lived in Huntington for 34 years. She was named director in July 2008.

She says that compared to the other two museums in Huntington, her museum is different in its focus, which is to tell the history of the county and to house artifacts.

Bergdall keeps a computerized inventory and she says she has more than 7,000 pieces in a collection that covers the timeline of Huntington.

The history starts with the Miami Indians and goes on to the canal days when Huntington (named after Samuel Huntington, a signer of the Declaration of Independence) thrived around the waterways.

As the main part of the museum winds around, Bergdall explains that the history includes items from the Victorian era, the military (Civil War, World War I and World War II), businesses and industries, schools and toys, and the fire department. A small collection of the county's advertising is even housed in the museum.
Bergdall says the museum showcases on the many one-room schoolhouses that were in the county, as well as the small towns of early Huntington.

In the new addition to the museum building, which was completed last winter, exhibits show the agricultural history and railroading and feature different scenes, such as a kitchen. There is also a large mural painted on the wall that looks up Jefferson Street.

Bergdall explains that since the addition was completed, the museum has been able to get things out of storage to set up.

She says the museum tells many different stories about one single person who lived in the county and contributed to its history someway.

There are few reproductions in the museum, so most are real artifacts that were donated to them. Bergdall says the museum gets its items through donations and the artifacts must be from Huntington.

"Everything has a Huntington County connection (here)," she says.

"If people bring us in something that helps to tell the story of Huntington County's history, we're interested in having it. We'll do our best to get it displayed, and even if we don't display it, we have the facilities to preserve it correctly," Bergdall adds.

She believes the museum has artifacts from the 1830s up to the 1980s, maybe later. One of the nicest items it has, she says, is a piano that belonged to the first Grayston family in town, which was brought via the canal. It is her favorite item as well.

"We continue to keep things that we think are representative (and) important to tell the historical story of the county," she says.

She adds it's the museum's goal to tell the story of Huntington and show visitors what makes the museum unique.

"Our purpose, as an organization, is to preserve, interpret, educate and promote interest in the history of Huntington County. That's really our reason for existence ... to be limited to that narrower scope."

And being a former teacher, there's one aspect that Bergdall likes most about being the director.

"One of the things that I enjoy about this job is developing standard-based curriculum for school tours. We've really been able to expand what we can offer for classroom teachers in Huntington County in hope that they will see this as a resource to expose their students to primary source materials."

She says the volunteers and members of the Historical Society are the core of the museum, which is operated by the society.

The Huntington County Historical Museum is located at 315 Court St. and is open Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

The museum is closed during of January. Call 356-7264 or visit www.huntingtonhistoricalmuseum.org for more information.