BRISTOL — Curators at the Elkhart County Historical Museum have been busy putting the finishing touches on the building’s new library opening later this month, but visitors can get a sneak peek on Thursday, April 11.
Museum volunteers and staff have been working for more than a year to renovate a room in the northwest corner of the building to house the new Corson Local History Library and Special Collections Reading Room, opening for the first time to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, April 26. Manager Matthew Schuld envisions the museum becoming a historical hub and a cultural resource for people interested in delving into the county’s storied past.
“We really want this to be a jumping-off point for anybody to do research,” Schuld said. “We have countless historic maps of Elkhart County, and we have all kinds of archival materials from Civil War diaries to business records from places like Miles and C.G. Conn.”
The library also features school yearbooks dating back to 1912, county and city directories, old newspaper articles and thousands of historic photos, Collections Curator Liz Haeuptle added. The library will also allow visitors to track down their heritage using its historic materials and a computer station with access to ancestry.com.
Haeuptle, along with education curator Patrick McGuire, were moving files and books from the library’s old space across the hall on Tuesday, April 9, in preparation for Thursday’s library roundtable event. At 7 p.m., museum staff will be on hand to help visitors learn about the resources that can be found in the new library.
“There are so many great materials in the collection that you never have a full understanding or appreciation for what exactly is in the collection until you get to do something like this,” Haeuptle said about the library’s relocation.
The library’s renovations were supported by a grant from the Corson Family Foundation with additional funding from the Elkhart County Historical Society and the Elkhart County Parks Department.
Wheels are already turning to transform the old library into an education lab that will give visitors a behind-the-scenes look at how historians and museum staff examine artifacts, interpret old documents and preserve Elkhart County’s history. A timetable has not been set for the lab to open, but Schuld is working to secure funding for the project.
Pre-registration for the library roundtable event is required by Thursday morning. Sign up by calling the Elkhart County Parks Department at 848-4322. Admission is $1 per person. The museum is regularly open for free from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday at 304 W. Vistula St. in Bristol.