After almost a year’s worth of preparation, the Highland Home Museum is open for business.
“It’s been a labor of love and a dream come true,” said the museum curator Roland Harris, a founding member of the Highland Historical Society who has written more than 1,000 columns in the News Leader about Highland’s history.
On April 22, the Highland Home, located at 1600 Walnut St., celebrated the grand opening of its new museum with a special ribbon cutting. At the opening, Harris and museum volunteers greeted visitors and gave personal tours through the five-rooms packed with local memorabilia.
Harris said the museum started he and his wife Lorna’s personal collection of 98 boxes of pictures, pens, documents and drawings. According to Harris, the collection began growing in the 1950s, when he started collecting memorabilia from Highland merchants.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to Belleville News-Democrat
It’s been a labor of love and a dream come true.
Roland Harris, Highland Home museum curator
Then, in March 2016, the Highland Home board designated some space for the museum. Harris said he was relieved, because he did not know what else he would be able to do with the collection.
From the start, there was a lot of work to be done. The allotted rooms began to transform into the museum as Harris gathered volunteers and more items for the cases. The small group worked for about a year to get the exhibit together, gluing, organizing and arranging the memorabilia in handmade display cases. Tom Korte was one of the volunteers who worked dozens of hours to prepare the museum.
“I was just amazed to know how much Roland actually knows about all these different people and where they came from and who they are related to,” Korte said. “It is a beautiful finish. I really liked the way it all turned out.”
The museum initially started with only four rooms. The rooms and their exhibits are categorized alphabetically, with the letter “H” — naturally —having the largest section. During the procuring of items for the museum, the displays quickly expanded into the hallway to what Harris calls the “Art Hall,” where paintings (some are Harris’ own work), carvings, drawings, embroidery, lace work and other works of art made by Highland natives are displayed.
I was just amazed to know how much Roland actually knows about all these different people and where they came from and who they are related to. It is a beautiful finish. I really liked the way it all turned out.
Tom Korte, museum volunteer
At the end of the Art Hall, visitors will find the “Farm Room,” the fifth and final room addition to the museum. The room has many kinds of farm equipment, including a saw labeled “Harris,” a vintage shingle-maker and spinning-wheel.
“They must have worked for hours and hours to have it all together like that,” said museum visitor Marlies Wenzel. “It’s really interesting.”
Many from Harris’ large family also attended the museum opening, and he made sure that they were all in the ribbon-cutting pictures. Throughout the day, many of his family members voiced how proud they were, adding that the museum was something that talked about for quite sometime.
Harris’ granddaughter, Hilary Harris-Crites, recalled that visits to the Harris house were like visiting a history museum, and there were always tours involved.
“So now its really cool to see him actually have a museum where he can give formal tours and tell his stories to more than just family.” said Harris-Crites. “We are so proud of him.”
The museum will now be available by appointment, but according to Harris, starting in June, they are hoping to have the museum open on the first Saturday of every month. For more information, call 618-654-2395.