A busy season at the Lockmaster House Museum

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Ray Black leads volunteers who welcome visitors to the Lockmaster's House Heritage Museum on the grounds of Lock and Dam 10 in Guttenberg. (Press photo by Shelia Tomkins)

By Shelia Tomkins

The Lockmaster's House Heritage Museum, located on the grounds of Lock and Dam 10, each year attracts many visitors to Guttenberg to view displays and artifacts of river and community history.

The museum is operated by the Guttenberg Heritage Society, and this past year saw a change in leadership. Ray Black, chairman, now heads nearly a dozen volunteers who greet visitors, raise funds, create exhibits and accomplish other work that supports the museum's mission.

Looking at the activities of the past season, Black noted that the group held a successful membership drive that he hopes will be repeated annually.

"We relocated some exhibits from the first floor to the basement which made the first floor more open, and added lighting in the basement which was a great improvement," said Black. "We changed the traffic pattern, directing visitors to enter and leave through the porch entrance. This resulted in more people signing the register as well as about a 40% increase in donations."

The open hours were changed this season from seven to six days, closing on most Mondays.

"We had the windows thoroughly cleaned, and volunteers washed and rehung the curtains which made things much brighter, not to mention the other great housecleaning by the volunteers," added Black.

Visitors from near and far

Black estimates that by the time the museum closes this year, following the fall leaf tour season, volunteers will have welcomed approximately 1,000-1,100 visitors.  "They come from all over the U.S. as well as Europe, Asia and Australia," he said. "We also had tour groups from various places in Iowa."

"Most people found the museum interesting and well done," he said. Some were interested in the re-creation of vintage furnishings and some in the photos of the construction of the lock and dam. Others enjoyed river and barge tow information, as well as artifacts from the office of the late Dr. Palmer. "There was something for everybody," he said. 

The Heritage Society publicizes the museum through the Chamber of Commerce at the Visitors Center, and on local cable Channel 6. Black also expressed appreciation to The Press for promoting the local attraction. "The museum was also featured this year on the Guttenberg page in Big River Magazine,  thanks to a generous patron," said Black.

Goals for next season

 In looking ahead to the 2019 season, Black said, "We hope to expand our exhibits pertaining to the Lock and Dam system as well as on the Upper Mississippi River, probably in the basement where we have more room. We would also like to have more exhibits of interest to children."

An ongoing concern has been the state of the exterior of the building, which the Society leases from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "In our ongoing discussions with Lockmaster Sam Mathiowetz, he informs us that the Corps is working with a company to develop a historic structures report that will show what can and should be done.  This report should be complete this year." 

Volunteers needed

Volunteers are always needed, especially this season as fall leaf lookers visit the community. "Specifically we need volunteers to serve one, two, or more on Saturdays or Sundays," notes Black.  "We lost four volunteers this year and their shoes are hard to fill.  The current volunteers stepped up admirably to cover the days.  Many thanks to them." Anyone interested in volunteering can contact him at 252-1954.

Current active members, in addition to Black, are: Austin Greve, secretary - treasurer; and volunteers Wendy Shea, Pat Krapfl, Lowell Moser, Karilyn McArthur, Ann Fariello, Lisa Finch, Joanne Finch, Jane Elsinger and back-ups Jan Hansel, and Vernon Heck. 

"We would encourage local folks and groups to investigate the vast information pertaining to local families and properties," added Black.

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