Ligonier Valley Historical Society shares stored artifacts collection

| Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 6:36 p.m.

The Compass Inn Museum will open two former storage rooms for viewing this season, thanks to the generosity of area donors and the hard work of the staff during the offseason to make the space available.

For the past several months, Ligonier Valley Historical Society staff members and volunteers have systematically worked through boxes of artifacts stored in the rooms and other storage areas on the grounds, documenting the items and repacking them in upgraded preservation packaging materials.

“Since January, volunteers have looked at thousands of items,” said Roberta Smith, executive director of the Ligonier Valley Historical Society, located on the museum grounds in Laughlintown. “It could take another 1½ years to get it all cataloged.”

The bedrooms on the second floor of the inn will feature furnishing from the 1840-1860 time period. One of the bed frames, constructed of wood from local farmlands, was recently donated to the museum and features a woven rope frame.

Grant funds were used to build a more efficient storage area for the items previously stored in the bedrooms.

“As we get additional funding, we will buy acid-free tissue paper, boxes and sleeves and put it all back into a special climate controlled storage area,” Smith said.

Smith said they must go box by box to make sure all of the items are numbered and properly stored. Some of the items, although they have been packed safely away in an attic, have not been seen since the 1960s, according to Smith.

“As we found more and more items, I began thinking that people needed to see them, too. After all, our mission is to collect and preserve the history of the Ligonier Valley,” Smith said. “We have this great collection and need to take the opportunity to share it with the public. ” Some of items were on display during Sunday's Free Museum Day at Compass Inn. A rare group of scrapbooks created by Susannah Armor, daughter of the Robert Armor, the inn's proprietor in the 1820s, were viewed by visitors.

“We found several books of calling cards and advertisements from the 1800s that she collected and artistically arranged in books,' Smith said. “For me, this collection of calling cards from Susannah Armor is the most unique discovery I have found so far.”

As a student of history, Smith said she finds it fascinating to learn about the people behind the item.

“We learn about the person through these artifacts. It gives us a look into their lives,” Smith said. “These scrapbooks say Susannah was an artist and a collector.”

Smith said the cataloged collection includes a large number of photographs, books and letters.

A prized item for Smith is a letter written by a local man about the assassination of President Lincoln.

“When you read about his thoughts and emotions about the president passing away, it takes you to that time period,” Smith said.

Not all of the discoveries have been buried in boxes in a dusty attic, however. Last month, while excavating a sewage line on the property near the gift shop, Smith discovered a pair of iron shears.

“They were probably used to cut leather, as was common since the 17th-century,” Smith said.

The society will promote a “Raiders of the Lost Archives” program throughout the summer to promote some of the other artifacts uncovered in the cataloging process.

“Stagecoach Stop Archeology in the Ligonier Valley” will featured in June; “The Civil War and the Ligonier Valley” in July and “The Age of Iron in the Ligonier Valley” in August.

Smith said volunteers are needed to complete the catalog project or work as docents at the museum.

“We need volunteers to help with the tours,” she said. “We provide a training manual and training ahead of time for new docents. You will work alongside an experience docent while in training.”

For more information about Compass Inn or the Ligonier Valley Historical Society, call 724-238-4983.

Deborah A. Brehun is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-238-2111 or

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