GREENVILLE – The Garst Museum is paving the way for national attention by adding improved signage and newly-acquired artifacts of Annie Oakley’s life.
“I think we’re preparing and improving our exhibits to put them on a more national level,” Garst Museum Executive Director Clay Johnson said. “I really think we have the quality of artifacts and research here.”
The museum is initiating a multi-stage sign program which is designed to make the it more patron-friendly. The new signs integrate matching icons, fonts and colors with their matching museum wings including Lowell Thomas, Annie Oakley and the Treaty of Greene Ville exhibits.
The prominent sign outside the Garst Museum was also redesigned to mirror aspects from the house, from the front porch’s lower brick to its green trimmings.
“We wanted it to be aesthetically appealing, but also we had to realize this was a sign to identify the Garst Museum, so it was important to get the important information out there,” said Johnson. The sign now includes the new exhibit icons as well as the museum hours and website address. “I’m really pleased with how it turned out.”
The icons will also be used in new Garst Museum programs which feature a map of the building.
“This is a large museum, so it’s easy for some people to get turned around. So we’re going to have a program to direct people from one side of the museum to the other,” said Johnson.
Johnson said some patrons were under the impression that the Garst Museum was a county building, so the decision was made to enhance its branding and visibility. Additional signs are also planned for the parking lot and lead viewers to corresponding entrances and exits. Johnson expects the entire sign program to finish by the end of March.
The National Annie Oakley Center at Garst Museum has undergone a series of new upgrades as well, including a major replacement of the Annie Oakley Popular Culture Gallery case which are located in one of the museum’s hallways.
The renovations were made to streamline the exhibit with a natural beginning and end, and asks patrons to consider both Oakley’s history and myth.
“The goal was to create the beginning of the exhibit which introduced you to the pop culture aspect of Annie Oakley, which a lot of people are only familiar with, and then invite people to learn about Annie through her first-personal room,” Johnson said. “Then they’ll go into her professional room, which tells the story of the Wild West Show, and some of the new artifacts we’ve acquired dealt with the end of her life.”
The Garst Museum just recently acquired letters written by Annie Oakley where she recognizes her own mortality and begins to settle her affairs, with personal bank notes and her own cremation receipt.
“And so it really kind of ties to the end of her story,” Johnson said.
The Annie Oakley exhibit finishes with a case equipped with Annie Get Your Gun memorabilia, and asks viewers to consider the legacy left by Oakley.
Numerous other exhibits improvements were made, new exhibit labels, ceiling and lighting enhancements, an exhibit on Dave the Dog (Oakley’s English Setter), and a new height gauge for size comparison to Annie.
The size chart proved to be an early success with children’s groups touring the museum, as Oakley’s five-foot stature opened their eyes.
“It turned out to be one of the more popular parts of the exhibit,” Johnson said. “When I first saw it, I thought, well that’s not right. The fact that she was that small, it really speaks to her athleticism.”
Donations for the improvements came from the Coppock-Hole Trust, Fred Brumbaugh, Nealeigh Design Group, The National Annie Oakley Center Foundation, Bonnie Perry, Marilyn Robbins, Donna Roxey and Allen Bernard.
But these new upgrades are only the first step in a continual drive to improve the museum. Johnson hinted at new developments in just a few months down the road.
“In the springtime you’re going to see a lot of good things coming from here,” he said.