DANVILLE — The Vermilion County War Museum will soon have some technological and display upgrades thanks to the Vermilion County Board, and its allocation of ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funding from the federal government.
District Seven Board Member Jerry Hawker said, “I wanted to help direct some of those funds to organizations and groups in my district that work hard to serve the community but operate on limited budgets. So, I talked with Rhea and Larry Weatherford and learned that the Vermilion County War Museum could use some help. The museum is the nearest neighbor to the county’s Administration Building, and I knew how hard they work to honor our veterans. Instead of telling them what I thought we’d like to donate for, I asked for a list of plans and areas that we could help with for the museum.”
Hawker said that his interest in the museum had been piqued about four years ago when he and his granddaughter, Suzanne, attended an open house there.
“Suzanne was literally drawn into the stories and the people behind the artifacts as Larry gave us a tour. I knew then how important this museum is to the community,” Hawker said.
Hawker and County Board Chairman Larry Baughn visited the museum and talked with the Weatherfords who gave them a tour and pointed out what they felt could be done to help the museum move ahead.
The two also talked with Museum Board President James Kouzmanoff, Treasurer Colletta Johnson, other board members and volunteers.
The first item on the Weatherfords’ wish list impressed both Hawker and Baughn. That is a computer system that would contain a Vermilion County Veteran Database, listing everyone from the area who had served in the American Armed Forces, dating back to Revolutionary War Veterans who had moved to Vermilion County in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. That listing would continue all the way through those serving today. In addition to the names which would crawl across a giant LED screen on the wall, access to “scanned-in” pictures, stories and original documents will be available.
“We plan to digitize many of the collections we have or have access to for individual service personnel and regiments. For example, we’ll have scans of several hundred pages of documents, pictures, speeches and stories about John Charles and William Black, both of whom were awarded the Medal of Honor for their Civil War service,” Larry Weatherford said.
While the museum features tens of thousands of artifacts dating back to the 1700’s, Weatherford says, “The front room on the southwest side of the building will become our technology room, with computer workstations, big screens, and a touchscreen video kiosk installed for visitors.”
Weatherford already has expansion plans in mind for the system.
“I’d like to see us produce videos in a small studio in the same room. Those will focus on different eras of American history and on certain topics such as the Medal of Honor recipients from this area,” he said.
Board member Tara Auter added, “We also plan to record videos of veterans and their descendants to keep their stories alive for generations to come. Several of our volunteers and board members have broadcast, video production and public speaking experience which can help make this happen.”
Eventually, Weatherford envisions adding more video kiosks in other parts of the building and a mini-theater.
Baughn said, “The museum and all the many volunteers work so hard to keep up to date with all the history for the entire county. I am glad we could help future generations learn more of the impact their ancestors had in our local history. The war museum tells such an important story to our youth today, we have to make sure the sacrifices made by our local service men and women are always here for future generations to learn from.”
“We see the video system as our first step in helping the war museum,” Hawker said. “There are other areas that have been pointed out to us where I think the county can help make the museum even more of a showplace to honor our veterans.”
Weatherford agreed, “The county’s interest in helping the museum is greatly appreciated and will allow us to make strides ahead technologically and aesthetically. It’s hard to express how grateful we are for this assistance and support.”
Broadcast and electronic engineer Alan Woodrum of IAC Communications is designing, building and installing the video system for the war museum.