By GREG RUSSELL, Register Staff Writer
Gainesville Daily Register
Proceeds from the Morton Museum of Cooke County holiday bell sale may help enable museum officials to realize some short-term goals.
Completing the museum’s larger projects, however, continues to be a matter of funds unseen.
Museum Director Jayleane Smith said the bell sale began Thursday with a catered mixer and will continue through December during daily museum hours.
The holiday-themed bells, produced to be used as ornaments, range in price from $15 to $20.
“We always do really well,” Smith said. “We always make two, three or four thousand dollars. The favorite bells always go the quickest.”
Another holiday event, “Christmas at the Morton,” is set for Friday, Dec. 7. And aside from premiering a Native American display new to the museum, the party gives Smith and staff another opportunity for donations, which are generally used to update the facility and to fund both the purchase of new museum pieces and the preservation of existing ones, which vary widely.
“We look at our first priority to be collection,” Smith said. “Right now we have been through the process of going through each piece, piece by piece, and storing it, and making sure they’re UV-protected. Really protected.”
Smith said one recent Morton Museum addition is a collection of ledger notes kept by a Cooke County man between 1873 and 1879. For each day, she said, the man described the local weather — and in another uncovered collection of notes, historic jailer and contractor John Garrett described his progress in developing houses in south Gainesville.
“They told what he would do and what he had planned,” Smith said. “They’re handwritten and very faded, but they really need to be taken care of and preserved.”
Fortunately, the director said, the Morton Museum staff members succeed here, slow as their progress may unfold.
“There are lots of people in Gainesville who realize the importance of preservation and are very thankful that the artifacts are being preserved,” Smith said.
Smith said Morton Museum officials would also gladly create a display for historic local artifacts of the oil-and-gas industry, if they could gather them. Photographs, drill bits and other remnants of energy machinery would be included and given their own special section as a tribute to the area’s most crucial economic tool.
“That’s a piece of our history that’s very, very important,” Smith said.
But the museum’s most ambitious project is the full restoration of the colored-glass dome that currently fits encased in the facility’s ceiling. Originally created more than 110 years ago, it was painted with colors that are showing their fade.
“It’s sealed under Plexiglas and that’s been our saving grace,” Smith said. “But when you consider that it was made in the 1890s, what happens is that the lead begins to thin out, and as the lead thins out, it becomes more fragile.”
The director said the dome restoration will cost around $40,000, and will be a year’s undertaking. Donors currently send small amounts, and Morton Museum staff members keep a steady lookout for grants, but Smith admitted the dome project is nowhere near movement.
“We’d love to have it done any time soon,” she said. “But I’m guessing it will be five to 10 years. So it’s a long-term project and one that we’re certainly working on in a continual basis. It can’t be done a piece at a time.”
The dome and the museum’s broad item collection represent the Cooke County past, near and distant, and that is their value. Smith said that to some, their very existence is worth more than money, and so any cost that follows their preservation is not only valid but necessary.
“The things we have now may or may not affect anything we do in the near future,” Smith said. “But they still, 10 years from now, 15 years from now, 100 years from now, are here for someone else. If we take the time and effort to preserve them correctly, they’ll still be here.”
For more information, call (940) 668-8900.