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The Rowan County Veteran’s Museum makes changes to preserve exhibits

The Blue Jackets exhibit in the Rowan County Veteran's Museum, honoring the U.S. Naval Training Center at MSU during WWII.
Justin Tabor
The Blue Jackets exhibit in the Rowan County Veteran's Museum, honoring the U.S. Naval Training Center at MSU during WWII.

At 204 East 2nd Street, next to the historic jail in downtown Morehead, sits the Rowan County Veteran’s Museum. The building was originally constructed in 1937, and since 2001 has been the home of hundreds of pieces of military history including uniforms, weapons, gear and other materials, like old communication equipment.

Bill Bolen is the President of the Rowan County Veteran’s Foundation, which oversees the museum. Bolen said most of the collection has been donated by the community.

“We have about 600 artifacts at this point, roughly that veterans, mainly veterans, have donated to us and their families have donated to us. And so, we take our responsibility to care for those items very seriously,” said Bolen.

To that end, Bolen said they’re trying to take the facility from a repository to an actual museum. He said too much handling could potentially damage the artifacts.

“The repository has all the artifacts that you can touch and play with, helmets can be worn by children, etc. Because of the potential damage to the artifacts, we’re trying to head toward the museum idea, and that is to put these things under glass where they can be seen, but they’re not going to be damaged by people handling them and things of this nature,” said Bolen.

Dave Klinger is the Historian for the museum. Klinger said the changes are aimed at making the visitor experience more coherent and enjoyable.

“We wanted to keep the interactivity and the ability to interact with artifacts and items with all of our displays and exhibits,” said Klinger.

To do that, the museum purchased new display cases and renovated some areas. Now one of the rooms in the museum is dedicated to their most cherished collection, the Blue Jackets Exhibit, which pays tribute to the US Naval Training Center at MSU during World War II.

“The exhibit is wonderful, and not only does it showcase number one the training school, the naval training school, but also it has a wide variety of photographs, original uniforms, field gear, and things you can actually see and experience on a one-on-one basis which you pretty much would not be able to anywhere else,” said Klinger.

In addition to their physical improvements, the museum is also making some digital updates. Klinger said technological advancements are helping them keep track of inventory, while also giving them a stronger online presence.

“We’re working on a website currently where everything will be listed, and it can actually be listed out in sections. So, if you want to see the uniform collection, you know, ‘What’s in the World War Two collection?’, ‘What’s in the Korean collection?’. Every room or every area has its different collection of artifacts, uniforms, memorabilia that you can actually see and experience just as if you were at the museum,” said Klinger.

Uniforms and gear from Operation Desert Storm.
Justin Tabor
Uniforms and gear from Operation Desert Storm.

Klinger said through their efforts, they aim to offer an experience that otherwise people would have to travel hours, if not days, to get at larger metropolitan museums.

“We want to make sure that you know, if we can give a piece of that or kind of have an accurate representation on that level here, but on a much smaller scale, I think we’re doing the veterans here and you know the people of Rowan County a service,” said Klinger.

The museum has preserved the stories of veterans in Rowan County for decades. Bill Bolen said they’ve been working hard to bring new life into the museum for future generations.

“Our goal to date is to make this into a museum that will be around for many years,” said Bolen.

Exhibit updates can be found on the Rowan County Veteran’s Museum Facebook page.