The Meramec Valley History Museum has elected new officers and is preparing for relocation of its collection to a temporary home.
Former Pacific Mayor Jeff Titter, who founded the museum when he was an alderman, was elected museum president.
Edith McLaren was elected vice president and Donna Graham was elected treasurer. Jeannie Bandermann was elected secretary, but she declined the office and resigned from the museum committee board.
The Meramec Valley School District has agreed for the museum collection to be stored at the Community School, 413 W. Union. Aldermen approved the move at their Jan. 21 meeting.
In taking the helm of the museum, Titter said he is focusing on preserving the items in the collection and working with city officials to locate and secure a permanent home for the history museum. The museum has more than proven itself as a valuable asset to the community, he said.
“In 15 years, the museum committee has come a long way and became an important part of our city,” Titter said. “When I asked Mayor Jill Pigg to form the committee in 1999, I didn’t know if there would be any interest or what kind of items would be donated, but the response was overwhelming and the donations flooded in.
“I think the museum has been educational for many people including the city officials, the members and public,” he added.
Titter said the museum had gone beyond his early expectations, displaying memorabilia for a wide audience that shows the importance of the Meramec Valley region in the areas of transportation, industry and the military.
“We have had people from all walks of life come into the museum and I think a lot of them were shocked by the amount of items we had collected and surprised of all the history that surrounds the region,” he said.
Sale of the temporary home of the museum and storing the collected items won’t change the mission of the history committee that oversees the museum, the founder said.
“I want to reassure people that all items are being carefully packed away and inventoried before being placed in containers to be stored in a secure facility,” Titter said. “I just want to say I appreciate everything the city has provided us. Without the support of the mayor, board of aldermen and city administrator we couldn’t have had a museum for the past six years and the hope of finding a new location to reopen.
“Right now we want to focus on the packing and inventorying items before we begin to map out the exact plan for the museum, but the committee looks forward to working with the mayor and board of aldermen in finding a suitable location for the museum and our path forward,” he said. “I think the committee should go into the discussion with an open mind and consider all options available to us.”
Titter credits Janet Daniel, Therissa Schlemper, Carol Johnson, Donna Graham, Don Graham, Edith McLaren, Brenda Wiesehan and Chris Niemoeller with carefully packing the items.
One positive thing that could come out of the relocation is a new home large enough to accommodate the growing collection.
“Some of the (history museum committee) members have expressed to me the desire to have a location that has more room to display and store items and to create a place that informs and educates the people who visit and honors our rich history,” Titter said.
A museum could not grow its collection and showcase the importance of the past without the dedication and labor of individuals who valued local history, Titter said.
“I do want to acknowledge Hilda and Jeannie Bandermann,” he said. “Without their hard work and dedication the museum would not have been so successful.
They were here from the beginning, day in and day out, working long hours and most of the time seven days a week, and when I said they were here from the beginning I mean it.
“Hilda and her husband Glenn donated the first item to be displayed in the case at city hall. Hilda took over the presidency of the committee after I was elected mayor in 2002 and oversaw the opening of the museum in the Wolf house on Union Street, and Jeannie was right there with her the entire time and became a dedicated member and museum secretary.”
One element of the museum in particular that helped turn a small local museum into an educational tool was the collection of materials on local veterans.
“Jeannie established the Veterans Hall of Honor, displaying military uniforms, medals and pictures of all the veterans from the area that had served in the Armed Forces,” Titter said. “It is an impressive collection of photos. Their (mother and daughter) contribution to the museum and the community were invaluable and will not be forgotten.”
The museum also housed an extensive private archive assembled by Janet Daniel, Gray Summit, who amassed local news stories, local books, family histories and photographs and obituaries from the entire Meramec Valley.
Daniel introduced a professional museum accessioning process that recorded each item owned by the museum along with the details of its acquisition and its ownership history.
As museum volunteers, Daniel and Therissa Schlemper, also interviewed residents to assemble local history stories that became part of the museum collection.
All this work will continue to be the focus of the museum, according to Pacific officials.
Speaking at the Jan. 21 board of aldermen meeting, Mayor Herb Adams said the city is committed to the museum and after carefully relocating the collection will begin a search for a permanent location for the exhibit items.