The Quaker Heritage Center helps visitors understand the important role Quakers have played (and continue to play) in the history of Ohio communities. Founded as a part of Wilmington College, this 1,200-square foot gallery features up to four different exhibits every year, in addition to a permanent timeline exhibit on the history of Quaker settlements in Southwest Ohio.
Ruth Brindle, curator of the Quaker Heritage Center, says one of her favorite things about the Center is being able to inspire people who leave “with a desire to learn more” about a community they thought they knew as they realize “there is so much more to learn.” Although the Center is a part of Wilmington College, the Center is open to everyone: Quakers and non-Quakers, students, faculty, local community members and out-of-town visitors. The small size of the Center allows for flexible programming that adapts to the different needs and interests of visitors. This small setting creates an atmosphere that connects people “to each other…to the topic of the exhibit or program, to the Center staff and to their community.” The original Planning Committee of the Center believed firmly in the importance of drawing repeat visitors, which is accomplished by giving visitors new and different reason to return.
Past exhibits have included “Bridges of Friendship: How Children Learn About Other Cultures” (2010) and community programs such as “New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music” (2011). While most education programming is geared toward fulfilling local history curriculum standards for 3rd and 4th graders, the Center offers programs and tours throughout the year to local schools and community groups of varying ages and interests. “Abraham Lincoln Day” (2012), an Alliance award-winning program, will be repeated in 2014 as “Freedom Day” to coincide with “Journey Stories,” a “Smithsonian Museum on Main Street” traveling exhibit, courtesy of the Ohio Humanities Council.
Brindle’s favorite thing about her role at the Center is being able to inspire visitors. As the only full-time member on staff, she does “pretty much everything except cleaning the bathrooms.” Her duties include exhibit research, design and installation, collections management and volunteer recruitment and training. The Center has two part-time student staff members during the academic year, in addition to student interns. While a small staff can be limiting, Brindle believes this size can also be “incredibly freeing” as it gives her the opportunity to do something new every day.
Through the Quaker Heritage Center, Brindle’s goal is to make every visitor have an “I didn’t know that!” moment, which she achieves by focusing on educating visitors through every exhibit and program.