West Point’s trove of historical treasures is slated to get a little more room when the town’s historical society expands into the second floor of its downtown building in summer 2020.
In addition to allowing for expanded exhibit space and office space for staff, the museum will be able to add a research library to its facility, said Historical Society of West Point executive director Richard Coppage.
“We get a lot of inquiries about the area from people who have family that’s from here. They’re coming to do research and find out things about the area,” he said. “It’s a place they can come, sit down and learn a little bit about the town.”
Currently, the museum’s books are packed into and around bookshelves in the back of the first floor.
“We are quite excited about this expansion and are working hard to raise the money to make it happen. Once completed, the upstairs will have a permanent space for our historical and genealogical library,” said Edwin Malechek, president of the historical society.
The upstairs of the museum, which is located in the former L. E. Mumford Banking Company building on Main Street, is empty and in need of electrical work and renovations, Coppage said.
The expansion to the upstairs level is expected to cost about $170,000. The project could include installation of an elevator or chair lift, Coppage said. The demolition work is complete.
The expansion also comes with some changes to the existing downstairs area of the museum, which features exhibits on the Civil War, the history of the town’s paper mill, town clubs and other topics.
There likely will be some shuffling around of existing exhibits as the museum figures out how to provide access to the second floor. The museum is also looking to swap out its existing entrance for something more commercial, as well as permanent signage, Coppage said.
As part of the expansion, the historical society wants to improve its storage facility behind the museum. While part of the storage area is temperature controlled, the plan is to expand that feature to a larger area will cost about $30,000, he said.
The museum has more than 3,000 artifacts on display and in storage. Some of the items in storage, such as old photographs and architectural design plans for town homes, could find their way into public viewing spaces with the expanded exhibition space.
While the plan is to have the expansion completed in summer 2020, the timeline is dependent on funding. The museum has applied for a few large grants to help cover the renovation expenses.
One grant is for $75,000 from the Cabell Foundation, a Richmond-based foundation that provides financial support to nonprofits. The museum also applied for an $82,000 grant from the local Elis Olsson Memorial Foundation. The museum hopes to learn whether it earns the grants this summer. It’s unclear whether either grant will require a match from the museum.
The museum has received a lot of community support, Coppage said, noting that donations flow in during big town celebrations such as Crab Carnival, and WestRock provides an annual gift. Anonymous donors also provide large sums to support the museum and its mission.
“That’s the part that makes the job worthwhile. When people show that interest and they don’t have to be recognized for it,” he said. “Hopefully we can be a place of knowledge and community for West Point.”
Jack Jacobs, 757-298-6007, email@example.com, @jajacobs_