By Josh Whitener
Get ready for the rebirth of Matthews history and heritage as the new Matthews Heritage Museum opens its doors to the public for the first time.
The grand opening of the museum at 232 N. Trade St., will take place Saturday, June 8, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free for visitors on opening day and on the first Saturday of each month. Regular admission is $4 for adults, $2 for visitors ages 11 to 17 and free for children 10 and younger.
The museum – a joint effort between the nonprofit Matthews Historical Foundation and the Town of Matthews – is housed in the circa-1880 Massey-Clark House in the center of downtown Matthews and features three distinct exhibits in three separate rooms. Matthews provided about $200,000 in tourism funds to support the project.
The Massey-Clark House was restored in 2010 to make it a suitable home for a historical museum. Once the restoration was complete, community members and members of the Matthews Historical Foundation got to work and spent about 18 months readying the museum for opening, according to Paula Lester, president of the foundation.
“This is something I’ve really been working on, the history (of Matthews) since I moved here (from Pennsylvania) in 1994,” Lester said. “The history that we do have here is important to the area and important to the citizens. It’s very gratifying.”
The foundation encouraged long-time Matthews residents to donate artifacts and photographs relevant to Matthews history that could be displayed in museum exhibits and on informational wall
panels. Once enough items were collected, the museum task force began organizing them into the three different galleries.
Gallery One, “Matthews Early Commerce,” features a ‘King Cotton’ display detailing the importance of cotton to Matthews. The gallery also features a switchboard and crank telephone, a Bank of Matthews area complete with a teller cage that was part of the original bank, informational panels focusing on transportation and some early merchants in Matthews and other commerce-related materials.
The second gallery, “Lifestyles,” focuses on life in the early 1900s before electricity came to Matthews. Features include a recreated front porch, living room area and kitchen, as well as a display case with vintage toys and games and more. Visitors also can view a short film about life in Matthews during the early 20th century.
Gallery Three, “Community,” centers on four distinct businesses that are historically unique to Matthews – “Doc” Yandle and the Matthews Drug Store, the Dr. Reid and Dr. McManus clinic, Sustar’s Swimming Pool and Outen Pottery. Displays feature antique prescription bottles, an old exam table, photographs of the swimming pool and a case filled with Outen pottery. The room also features World War I and World War II-era information, population growth information and a short film about Outen Pottery.
Lester and other foundation members also worked with the town to fund a part-time position for a museum director, and recently hired former High Point Museum director Barbara Taylor. A long-time historical museum guru, Taylor has worked for several other historical organizations, including Museum of the Albemarle in Elizabeth City, the Museum of Mobile in Mobile, Ala. and Rosedale Plantation in Charlotte. She’ll help take care of the day-to-day tasks at the Matthews Heritage Museum, including community outreach and overseeing volunteers and exhibits.
Taylor said one of her goals for the museum is to feature changing exhibit cases that will be switched out four times each year in hopes of attracting repeat visitors. She also plans to work with the Matthews Library and area schools to host displays and educational programs outside of the museum.
“We don’t want to become a static museum,” Taylor said. “History doesn’t have to happen in just one place.”
Although the museum is pretty full, Taylor said she’ll welcome any contributions from community members, especially antique pharmaceutical items, period pieces and photographs from the late 19th and early 20th centuries that are relevant to Matthews.
Want to go?
The Matthews Heritage Museum will be open every Thursday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The museum will offer free admission to all visitors on the first Saturday of each month. The grand opening Saturday, June 8, also is free to the public.
Regular admission is $4 for adults, $2 for visitors ages 11 to 17 and free for children age 10 and younger.
For more information, call 704-708-4996 or go to www.matthewsheritagemuseum.org.