County museum project plans are ongoing

Published 9:06 pm Wednesday, July 23, 2008

For many years, the idea of having a historical museum and archives specifically for Marengo County has been on the minds of many, but recent efforts toward the project are closer than ever to making it a reality.

The project gained momentum in 2003 when Bert and Mary Louise Rosenbush donated their building on Walnut Street to the city in the hopes that it would one day house such a place. While the building has been waiting for occupancy, a group of dedicated people has been working to fulfill the Rosenbush’s vision for their former furniture store.

“For all the people who were in Marengo County when it was settled and even the pre-history, we want to tell their story,” said Mary Jones-Fitts, who has been one of the many people working to get the museum up and running.

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Jones-Fitts first had the idea of doing a museum to honor the African American culture of the area, and approached the office of Rep. Artur Davis with the idea in 2006. Soon thereafter, with assistance from Gwen Turner, Jones-Fitts was introduced to other people in the community who had also been hoping to put together such a project, like Kayte Melton.

Since then, the idea has grown into a tax-exempt incorporation, known as the Marengo County History and Archives Museum Foundation Inc. They have also recently secured a 30-year lease with the city on the very building where the project first began.

According to Kirk Brooker, another key player in the future museum, one of their chief concerns right now is with fundraising. Although they have secured grant funds through the Black Belt Community Foundation, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and other groups, they are constantly seeking out more funds.

“We really want this to be something beyond anything Demopolis has to offer,” Brooker said.

While there has been skepticism in the past about the project moving forward, those who are closely involved say they have simply been trying to put together a high quality facility and do so in the right way, a process that simply takes time, Brooker said.

Preliminary plans for the 9,000 square foot main floor of the Rosenbush building include a specifc display area for each of the major cultures of Marengo County: Native American, French, European, African American, Jewish. Furthermore, there will also be specific displays for the Civil Rights movement and a sports hall of fame area.

Another special part of the project is being made possible by grant funds from the BBCF to the Marengo County Historical Society. The grant will pay for an oral history project focusing on the Civil Rights era with special focus on integration.