New Role Possible for Newark Museum

There’s a move underway to reopen the tiny museum at the Great Circle Mound in Newark. The site was closed in 2004 as part of the Ohio Historical Society’s response to state budget cut-backs.

When the Ohio Historical Society opened the Newark museum more than 30 years ago, it was the first in the U-S to focus exclusively on prehistoric American Indian art. Historical Society Facilities Director George Kane says the museum featured examples of work created by Native American cultures throughout Ohio. When the historical society closed the museum, they removed all the artwork. “Closing a museum is something we don’t like to do,” says Kane. “It’s the last resort.”

Kane upbeat about reopening the museum as part of a partnership with the Greater Licking County Convention & Visitors Bureau. Under the proposal, the CVB would move to the museum on the site of the Great Circle Mound. The Great Circle is 1200 feet in diameter and part of three well-preserved Newark-area sites built some 2,000 years ago by the Hopewell people. CVB executive director Susan Fryer says talks about moving the bureau to the museum began in May.

“Getting that museum open again and having visitors come to the museum is a natural attraction in itself,” says Fryer. “Then, we can send [visitors] on to other attractions in Licking County.”

Kane says 25 of the Historical society’s sites are managed by other groups including local historical societies and preservation groups. “The success of these individual sites,” says Kane, “depends on the involvement of the local community.”

Kane says, the Ohio Historical Society’s board of trustees has approved the idea and, if the Licking County board approves it, one of the first items of business is to restock the shelves. “We hope they’re going to be in the building,” says Kane. “And now we need something for visitors to see.”

The Visitors Bureau board has 26 members representing various market segments including hotels, museums, historical sites and parks. “Some board members are concerned about leaving downtown,” says Susan Fryer. “Others want to try something new. It’s just a 2-year agreement.”

The Greater Licking County Convention and Visitors Bureau Board of Directors votes in two weeks.