Residents of the Oil Region come face to face with aspects of history every day, whether it is a school mascot, a street name or even the newspaper as links to the area’s past bubble up like the black gold it’s known for.
And to help kick residents into a mindset that history matters, three Venango County museums are offering up their antique treasure troves free of charge today.
The Venango County Museum Day, a concept created by local museum lovers Mary Nicklin and Betsy Kellner, showcases the Venango Museum of Art, Science & Industry in Oil City and the Franklin attractions of DeBence Antique Music World and the Venango County Historical Society.
“(People don’t) realize that the museums are even here and often time people think they’re only open for research,” Kellner said.
The museums are in fact open to anyone who wants to learn more about the past.
Today’s Museum Day also serves to “raise (the museums’) local visibility,” DeBence executive director Scotty Greene said.
Though vastly different from one another, each museum offers something for all ages such as the antique toys of the Historical Society, the functioning mechanical music machines of DeBence or the 1937 Cord automobile – an American luxury car produced only for four years due to its high price – at the Venango Museum.
“You have the opportunity to see things you don’t normally see on an everyday basis,” Diana Griffith, executive secretary of the Historical Society, said.
The three museum representatives spoke of the importance of remembering the past and how it shaped the future.
“I hope (visitors) take away how important the discovery of oil is and how important our history is to us,” Kellner said.
Greene said that without DeBence’s special brand of musical history, people are “missing a piece of American background.”
The history one can witness at these sites isn’t just from the long forgotten past.
The Venango Museum’s oil exhibit details how the discovery of oil has changed not only the world, but this area.
Greene said some of the mechanical music machines play styles of music that were popular as recently as the 1970s.
At the Historical Society, a person can walk the halls of the Egbert-Mullins-Koos house that remained occupied as a single-family home from the time it was built in 1860 to 2009. In this time, only four families lived in the house.
“This house is just amazing,” Griffith said as she described the wallpaper ceiling and regal chandelier.
“It’s a chance to look back and see how people cherished what they had and their homes were their show pieces,” she said. “The things that filled their homes were really the memories of the people who came before them.”