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History Museum Adds To Resurgence Of Downtown Terre Haute Museums

A display of a department store in the Vigo County History Museum

The Vigo County Historical Museum opened in downtown Terre Haute in November. (Joe Hren, WFIU/WTIU News)

Terre Haute could have as many as nine downtown museums in the next few years.

The Holocaust CANDLES museum announced plans to move to the vacant First National Bank historic building on Wabash Avenue. Soon a Larry Bird museum will spring up as part of the newly planned convention center.

And the Vigo County Historical museum opened downtown in November. Executive Director Susan Tingley says the city’s history lends to attracting local museums.

“We’re very lucky to have the kind of buildings here, the old ones that are perfect for opening museums,” Tingley says.

The new space is in the former home of the Ehrmann Manufacturing Company built in 1895. It’s blocks away from Terre Haute’s dining and retail space.

Renovations and construction of $3.2 million museum was funded by grants, pledges, and donations. And they’re still fundraising.

“One of the things about a local museum is that there’s not a lot of appeal outside of where you live. So people that wanted to see this happen are local people or they’ve been here before and they still feel a connection to a community,” Tingley says.

The new location is more than twice the size of its previous Victorian house on the outskirts of town. The three floors give the museum an opportunity to keep doing new things.

"We will change the exhibits there will be a reason to come back,” Tingley says.

Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett says it’s not a collaborative plan to relocate or build museums downtown.

“We’re all excited about that because within walking distance, you can get to eight different places pretty easy,” he says.

Bennett says the new downtown activities compliment the city’s new marketing campaign ‘See You In Terre Haute.’

But Tingley says it’s more than tourism, it’s installing a sense of community pride. The city has seen budget deficits, controversy over a new jail, and divisions over allowing a casino to be built.

“I think if you’re local, we hope that you start to feel a little more proud of Terre Haute and Vigo County, that you see all the things that happened in our history,” she says.

The Clabber Girl Museum and Terre Haute Children’s Museum are also located downtown.

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