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Williamston Depot Museum reopening for the first time in over a year with two new exhibits

Posted at 7:00 AM, Jun 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-27 07:00:43-04

WILLIAMSTON, Mich. —

It's been over a year since the Williamston Depot Museum had to close.

Depot Museum
The sign out front hints at what's to come in the new exhibit inside.

“It was closed over a year like most museums, because you're a small space, multiple people, things like that,” said board member Earl Wolf

On Sunday, they're reopening with two new exhibits.

“It was closed over a year like most museums, because you're a small space, multiple people, things like that,” said board member Earl Wolf

Linda Siciliano made an exhibit about Barrett's clothing store.

Linda Siciliano made an exhibit about Barrett's clothing store.

“Barrett’s is the longest-running business in Williamston," Wolf said. "It goes back to 1909. It carried men's wear and dry goods and became synonymous with downtown Williamston for generations.”

The store closed in 2019 and most of the items in the exhibit came from the store's attic.

“It’s reopening with another function, but hopefully they keep that name because it’s just an icon in the Williamston community.”

Barrett's Clothing Store exhibit
This old credit box was found in the attic at the Barrett's Store location. Siciliano said it took movers to transport the box because it was so heavy.

While the Barrett's exhibit will only be up temporarily, the other new one will stick around.

“This is a permanent exhibit that is created to recreate how the telegraph station would have actually been in a depot along the railroad tracks,” Wolf said.

Telegraph exhibit
The permanent telegraph exhibit sits in front of the museum bay windows just like a telegraph station would have been set up years ago.

Wolf created the telegraph exhibit and he said he got the idea from staring at the bay windows in the museum and from some of the artifacts they already had.

“We’d sit here all the time and look at this bay window and said what is the point of this bay window and then we realized, of course, that almost every train depot had a bay window,” Wolf said.

That's when they found a man in Battle Creek who taught Wolf everything he needed to know.

“There’s almost no one alive who knows how this stuff works unless they learned a modern system in military or something and then we found Robert,” Wolf said.

Robert Hibbard
Robert Hibbard donated mos of the items in the exhibit. There are also QR codes of recordings of Hibbard to talk about being a telegrapher.

Robert Hibbard worked as a telegrapher for most of his life and gave the artifacts he saved to the museum.

“He’s been doing this since before the Korean War and so he knows all how this worked and interacted with the train lines in our communities around here,” Wolf said.

The telegraphs are even interactive.

Telegraph exhibit
Part of the exhibit is interactive allowing people to practice Morse code.

“Very few people know how to do it, know how to operate it and put it all back together again and Robert’s one of those guys and he’s just a treasure,” said Wolf.

Wolf said this exhibit is important because telegraphs are a part of Williamston history.

Wolf said this exhibit is important because telegraphs are a part of Williamston history.

“Before telegraph, every message on Earth could only go as fast as the human carrying it," Wolf said. "Telegraph came along, boom, it's the explosion of cellular age.”

Wolf said he can't wait to welcome people back.

“Get out of the house it’s a rainy day anyway and rainy days in museums and great together,” Wolf said.

The museum will be open from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Hibbard will talk about his life as a railroad telegrapher at 3 p.m. The event is free and open to the community.

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Mikayla Temple

Mikayla Temple

1:39 PM, Jan 05, 2021

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