The Massillon Museum at 121 Lincoln Way E. is a jewel that only grows brighter.
One of the country’s best small museums, “MassMu” as it’s nicknamed, is housed in a 29,000-square-foot building in the heart of downtown.
Curator Heather Haden said the museum has more than 100,000 artifacts, including 60,000 photographic negatives that are stored in a temperature-controlled unit.
The majority of the collection, Haden said, comes from community donations. Because space is limited, Haden said a process is used to determine an artifact’s significance to Massillon history.
“It’s a very eclectic collection,” she said.
A glance around the storage area bears this out. Grandfather clocks, political posters, bolts of material, furniture and even a whacky, 1920s-era machine for women’s permanents have found a home at MassMu.
Five years ago, for its 75th anniversary, the museum published a book showcasing its 75 rarest and most significant artifacts.
The roots of the Massillon Museum go back to the city’s founder, James Duncan. A home built by Duncan in the 1830s, and later acquired by attorney Frank and Annie Steese Baldwin, served as the city’s first museum. The house was bequeathed to the community by Mrs. Baldwin, under the stipulation that it become a museum. The Baldwin Museum opened in 1933, and later encompassed the public library.
When a conflict arose over how to accommodate both institutions, the museum closed in 1934, and its contents were stored in a temporary space until a wing to house it was complete. Construction for its space began in 1936. It reopened in 1938 as the Massillon Museum.
The museum was first accredited in 1972 by the American Association of Museums. In 1991, the state gave the organization $750,000 for a new building. That same year, the museum’s board of trustees purchased a former department store housed in the Glitz Building. Following a four-year, $1.9 million capital campaign, the current facility was opened in 1996.
MassMu also boasts a collection of ethnographic and archaeological artifacts from around the world, brought home by a Dr. Abraham P.L. Pease, Massillon physician who was a world traveler.
“My favorite piece is the (Mario) Fortuny jacket,” she said. “I saw it as an intern. It represents an exciting moment for women, a move toward globalization and the changing modes of technology.”
This year, for the first time in its history, the museum was able to add an archivist, Mandy Altimus Pond, and a registrar, Meghan Reed.
Haden said they are jobs that used to be multitasked.
“There’s something for everyone,” Pond said, adding that the museum also has 130 “virtual galleries” available for viewing on its website.
“There’s so much history here,” Haden said. “I’ve tried to put as much as possible on display.”
Haden said she’s excited about an upcoming exhibit called “Echo,” which will showcase the history of recorded sound.
“The best part of this job is getting to learn about other cultures,” Haden said. “From fashion to football, to technology exhibits, I never get bored.”
Summer in Stark County is full of fun. We go behind the scenes to give you the insider’s experience at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Loretta Paganini’s School of Cooking and the Massillon Museum, as well as a hands-on account of learning to play disc golf and getting a VIP shopping experience at The District Boutique.