Annex sold; Clarion County Historical Society reshuffles

CLARION — It has been moving day for several days at the Clarion County Historical Society. The society sold the Milo Markle Annex building, and that meant a lot of shuffling in the Sutton-Ditz Museum.

In 2001, the society purchased the annex, where the society housed the library, gift shop and administrative office.

“Several years ago, we decided to move the library back into the Sutton-Ditz Museum,” society Executive Director Mary Lea Lucas said. “We have people from all over the United States and other countries doing genealogy, and they were doing their work at the Markle building and not coming to the museum. It was a small space to do research.

“It just didn’t make sense. We needed to have everything in one building. Now when visitors do their research, maybe they will take time to visit the rest of our exhibits. It has been wonderful because everyone loves doing research in the building.”

The administrative office and the gift shop remained in the Markle building after the library was moved back to the museum.

“The gift shop resells items donated for the gift shop. That way, we don’t need to have a lot of fundraising events. We sell things online and often we can get more out of those items,” Lucas said.

Everything, she said, will be moving back to the museum except the store, which will move to the second floor of the new Dan Smith’s Chocolates building on Main Street.

“We have a space there where we are putting things. We don’t have to man it, and it has already been working out for us. We can do the online part of it from the museum,” Lucas said.

The administrative office will be moved to the third floor of the museum, which Lucas is “really excited about. I will even have a window.”

The sale of the Markle building led to lot of movement inside the Sutton-Ditz Museum.

“Everything was stored up on the third floor,” Lucas said. “There were things up there that had been there since we bought the building in 1976.”

Those items were moved and stored in another part of the building.

“It was great because I got to see things I didn’t know existed,” Lucas said. “It is just about clear now; so we will be moving the office in over this week.”

The sale of the Markle building will help the society’s bottom line. Like other nonprofits, the society struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Everyone here is a volunteer, including me,” Lucas said. “It has been quite challenging. Last year when COVID hit, we really couldn’t do anything.”

Lucas said the museum will be closed over winter, but will open by appointment, and “we will still be here doing work inside the museum.”

The hope is for the the haunted museum to return for Halloween in 2022.

“It has to be family friendly, no blood and gore,” Lucas said. “We include obscure artifacts that people don’t normally see. We also had treat bags for the kids. It was a lot of fun. It brought in people who were never here before.”

Funding, though, is a problem.

“Many people believe because we are the Clarion County Historical Society that we are an agency of the county and are funded by the county,” Lucas said. “We are a private nonprofit, educational institution. We do receive $2,500 from the commissioners annually.”

Grants help the society. However, with a limited staff, Lucas said it’s difficult to do the paperwork. Several years ago, the society received a state grant to rebuild the front porch of the museum.

“We had to have a match for that, and several donors stepped up and provided the matching funds,” Lucas said. “It was a miracle. It is always difficult. We are on a shoestring budget.”