MARIETTA - A $14,110 gift to the Campus Martius and Ohio River museums from a Columbus resident - the late Cloene Samuels - will help with special projects at the Marietta museums, although no specific task has been identified at this time.
"We have lots of things that have to be done, but we'll have to talk with the Friends of the Museums board to determine where that money will be best used, and we want to use it as frugally as we can," said Jean Yost, finance committee chair for Friends of the Museums.
As a child growing up in Vinton in Gallia County, Samuels enjoyed watching boats moving up and down the Ohio River as well as visiting the Campus Martius Museum in Marietta, Yost noted.
A longtime friend and supporter of the Ohio Historical Society, Samuels died in September 2011 at her home in German Village, Columbus, but her legacy of giving continues through the Cloene Samuels Fund she established before her death.
"She also contributed $10,000 in 2011 toward the W.P. Snyder sternwheeler rehabilitation project," Yost said, adding that such donations are a valuable resource for maintaining and operating the museums.
He said as a 501c3 organization, monetary contributions to the Friends of the Museums are a tax deductible way to finish out the year as tax season rolls around.
A lot of work has been done since Friends of the Museums took over operation of the facilities from the Ohio Historical Society three years ago.
"One of our first goals was to clean up the facilities," Yost said. "We got new signage and had new landscaping done. The painting of the building's exterior was done this year, and we're finishing the installation of a new skylight."
Among the more immediate needs at Campus Martius is a new boiler system to heat the facility.
"The current system is pretty old and really needs replaced," Yost said. "The (Samuels) money could be used there."
And there are plenty of other projects - current and in the long-range planning stages - that will require more funding.
Right now the pioneer flatboat and a shanty boat are being restored on the Ohio River Museum grounds with a goal of opening both attractions to the public next spring.
Yost said in the long term the Friends of the Museums group wants to update exhibits.
"Exhibits in the museum wing that was built in 1957 haven't been changed since the 1980s," he said. "That includes documents like the Ordinance of 1786 and others dealing with the creation of the state of Ohio."
Many schools groups visit the museums every year, and Yost said it's important to upgrade exhibits regularly to reflect the most recent research and discoveries as well as to provide a fresh museum experience.
"It's an ever-changing process, and this can't be done overnight," he said. "But we want to look at every exhibit at Campus Martius with the goal of making the history flow as people move from room to room and from floor to floor."
Yost said the Ohio Historical Society continues to provide invaluable support for the local museums.
Marietta Councilman Harley Noland, who heads the city's lands, buildings and parks committee, said the museums are vital to the community, noting recent improvements that are breathing new life into the facilities.
"The No. 1 thing is that (Campus Martius) is now open year-round, and that means Marietta also becomes a year-round destination," he said. "This is a major attraction, and at one time it was closed during the winter months. So I consider this the single most significant move for the museum that I can remember."
Noland said that since the Friends of the Museums group has become involved there have been several new acquisitions and exhibits, including a series of 12 paintings commissioned by Marietta officials in 1937 for the city's sesquicentennial.
The murals, depicting significant events in the city's early history, were painted by William Mark Young, who lived in Cleveland at the time. Young painted similar murals that are now hanging in the Ohio Statehouse.
Yost noted that the Campus Martius Museum has been certified to be able to display special circulating exhibits from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
"Our staff is so excited for the progress we've made at the museums," he said. "We've tripled attendance at the Ohio River Museum, and doubled our annual attendance at Campus Martius. People have shown us this is something they really want to see."