Museum Celebrates Busy Year
Visitors up 37 Percent in 2018
Last updated 3/6/2019 at 11:59am
It still surprises Jennifer D'Hollander when people drop by the Lake Wales Museum for the first time and say they didn't realize it was there. The restored railroad Depot has been offering visitors a glimpse into Central Florida's past for more than 40 years.
Museum Director D'Hollander and her staff are working diligently to promote the facility, its exhibits and programs. Their hard work paid off in 2018, when they hosted 6,577 visitors, a 37 percent increase over 2017.
D'Hollander invited about 50 people at a director's luncheon March 5 to thank volunteers, tout the past year's accomplishments and unveil plans for the future.
Also during 2018 the Museum hosted seven exhibits, five speakers, and 11 book club discussions. Four hundred twenty-six people attended 10 Summer Fun Days. Under the direction of Collections Specialist Bartholomew Delcamp, staff and volunteers added 85 donated items to the Museum's collection and inventoried 850 items already on hand. D'Hollander praised Delcamp for cleaning up the clutter and helping make the Museum's main room more open for exhibits and special events.
The City of Lake Wales operates the Museum, which is supervised by Tina Peak, director of Library and Historical Resources. D'Hollander and Delcamp are its only full-time employees, so they depend on college interns and volunteers, who donated 1,056 hours during 2018. The City budgeted nearly $279,000 this year for the museum complex, including $25,000 for the strategic plan, $20,000 for renovations and $40,000 for advertising and promotions. The Museum also obtained $50,000 in grant funding during 2018.
Additional support comes from the non-profit Lake Wales Museum Association, whose 10 members were instrumental in restoring and reopening a 1927 Seaboard Airline Railroad Caboose, which was rededicated in December 2018.
"Everyone needs a support system, a family to help make things happen," D'Hollander told the luncheon guests. "You are our family."
D'Hollander said she would be calling on people to support fundraising and implementation of a strategic plan, which lays out ambitious plans for the Museum between now and 2026, when it will celebrate its 50th anniversary.
"Our new vision for the future of the Museum calls for continued revitalization of historic buildings and train cars, increased educational opportunities, better outreach into the community and fundraising for future projects," D'Hollander wrote, along with "long-term sustainability of the Museum through four key strategies in Preservation, Engagement, Promotion and Growth."
The stated Mission of the Lake Wales Museum is to collect, preserve, and share the heritage of Lake Wales. D'Hollander pointed out that "Every town has an important history to celebrate." The Museum's vision is to "share the community's proud heritage, inspiring deeper connections to the City and encouraging our ability to contribute to its story."
Located at 325 S. Scenic Highway in Lake Wales, the Museum is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is free, but donations are accepted.