Travel through Indiana by car often presents the opportunity to discover gems in many of the smaller communities. One such gem is housed in Shelbyville, a typical small city on Interstate 74 southeast of Indianapolis. Located at 52 West Broadway, the Grover Museum is the pride and joy of the Shelby County Historical Society.
Even though the museum is rather small, the displays are most intriguing. As is often the case with local historical societies, generous patrons in the past have made the existence of a small town history museum possible. In the case of the Grover museum, Lena Firn Grover’s will stated that an 80 acre farm should be sold with proceeds to fund the purchase or construction of a “masonry-type” building. The Grover family had long been collecting artifacts from Shelby County.
The Grover Museum opened its doors to the public in 1981 in what was originally the Elks Club building, constructed in 1950. This multi-level building has been an effective venue with multiple display rooms, kitchen facilities, and a ballroom that has been transformed into a “Streets of Old Shelby” life-size generic town representing the 1900 – 1910 era. (See picture) This recreation of typical turn of the century store fronts present a variety of businesses including a bank, Emporium (drug store and soda shop), blacksmith shop and post office. Many of the shops are utilized for interactive activities for the public and local school groups. Local craftsmen can be seen in the wood shop hand crafting wagon wheel staves and other items. (See picture)
One large room has been designed to be a 1904 school room, complete with an original chalk board with a cursive alphabet across the top of the board. (See picture) The desks are reproductions of an original desk that was recovered from the ruins of a Shelby County school.
Another display room is devoted to railroads. Many locally obtained rail road artifacts are displayed. (See picture) A group of local model train enthusiasts maintain an elaborate model train scene that is centered in the room, providing clear view with raised steps for viewing by children.
The Grover Museum also has three rooms for rotating displays. Often the displays are geared towards local activities. Recently a display of Native American artifacts and artwork were placed in one of the rotating display rooms to coincide with a presentation to local school groups. Coupled with an open house, this event drew over 100 visitors, a very respectable number for a small local museum. The Director of the Grover Museum, Candace Miller, explained that the rotating displays have a turn around time that is very short, compared to larger facilities. Often a display will be shown for only 8 to 10 weeks. Putting together a new display in such a short time requires the help of the many volunteers who support the Grover Museum.
Miller also said that lack of new membership is becoming a concern, and has affected many local historical societies nationwide. She stated that the electronic media has made museums less interesting to the younger generation as competition with video games, internet, and social networking online has captured the interest and time of many. Interest and preservation of local history, one hopes, will continue in sufficient volume to allow local museums like the Grover Museum continue to provide valuable service to communities.
The Shelbyville Grover Museum is a very interesting place to spend an afternoon. When traveling through central Indiana it is worth your time to visit. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday 9 – 4, and Sundays 1 – 4. Admission is Free.