Museum will research Ephraim McDowell’s kids, digitize artifacts with KHS grant

Published 9:28 am Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The McDowell House Museum recently received a grant to enhance its children’s tours and digitally save at least 1,000 fragile documents and photos the museum has in storage.

Lauren Clontz, assistant director and education director for the McDowell House said hundreds of fourth- and fifth-graders from around central Kentucky visit the site every year. She wants to enhance their tours to be “more specific to and relatable to children.”

Clontz said when she was growing up she thought history was interesting because of the books she read like “Little House on the Prairie.” She related to the characters and felt like the children in history novels “were kids just like me.”

Lauren Clontz, assistant director and eduction director at McDowell House Museum displays a potty chair, at left, a rocking horse from 1790 and a harvest cradle that are displayed in the McDowell children’s bedroom. Clontz said the small potty chair always gets a lot of laughs from students, but it is really similar to what is used today.

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Clontz said the grant of $876.25 from the Kentucky Local History Trust Fund will enable her to research what it was like for children living in the 1800s. She also wants to find out more about the nine children of Dr. Ephraim McDowell and his wife, Sarah.

Clontz said with matching funds required to receive the grant, McDowell House will also purchase several medical equipment replicas so students can see and feel what those instruments were like in the early 1800s.

“They’re some really wicked looking medical equipment from that time,” Clontz said.

In addition to the extra research and purchases, Clontz will take an online course to help her be more prepared when expanding the children’s services.

Clontz said classroom tours are very similar to the adult tours. But she’s expecting the new tours will be enhanced with experiences and stories which will make “the students’ tours more purposeful.”

A second aspect of the grant will allow a student intern to digitize at least 1,000 items that the museum has collected since it opened in 1939. She said slides, papers and photos will be digitally saved for future generations to study and appreciate.

According to a news release from the Kentucky Historical Society, $876.25 may seem “insignificant, but for small local history organizations with limited resources, it can make a real difference in what they are able to do to fulfill their missions and serve the public.

Lauren Clontz, assistant director and eduction director at McDowell House Museum displays an antique plaster head doll that is on display in the children’s bedroom of the McDowell House.

“The grant pool for the Kentucky Local History Trust Fund comes from people who file Kentucky state income tax and elect to make a donation when they file their taxes. Seventeen organizations from across Kentucky received $22,217 in funding (this year.) Individual amounts range from $856 to $1,500 for projects related to collection conservation, education, promotion, exhibits and strategic planning. The Kentucky Historical Society administers the granting process.”