Dec 15, 2013

“Pathway to the Present” focuses on Darke County growth

BY BOB ROBINSON
ASSOC. EDITOR
GREENVILLE – “I think it’s a very remarkable job,” said John Marchal, president of the Darke County Historical Society. “It opens up the county for us.”

Marchal was referring to the Garst Museum’s latest exhibit, “Pathway to the Present: The Towns and Villages of Darke County.” It was the Master’s Degree project of Wright State University’s Jason Swiatkowski under the direction of museum Executive Director Clay Johnson, Ph.D.

The exhibit was introduced Dec. 8 during the museum’s Christmas Open House. Despite the weather, approximately 100 people visited, toured the museum and enjoyed the new offering.

“I started work on it in June,” Swiatkowski said. “The first 300 hours were my internship, the remaining hours because this exhibit was important.”

He noted he didn’t really think about the extra hours, quipping “I get depressed.” He later admitted it came to nearly 400 hours, adding he didn’t keep track too closely. “As soon as I passed 300 my bookkeeping got real sloppy.”

According to a press release, the display focuses on the growth of Darke County’s urban areas from 1850 to 1930. It is intended to interpret and illustrate the development of the county from an undeveloped wilderness to a settled and vibrant rural community. Advancements in agriculture, commerce, industry and transportation made this a period of intense growth for the area.

“I will be traveling the back roads and gathering those stories, searching for Darke County’s less-well-known history,” Swiatkowski had said in his proposal. He accomplished it, noting “I got to walk through swamps and stuff.”

Two ingredients of the display came from the intern himself. There was a photo of a goat he’d taken at the Darke County Fair. “It wasn’t taken in that time period,” he admitted, “but I like it. And it fits.” The other is a huge wrench dating back to that era.

“This has been sitting in my garage for years,” he said. “Now it has found a home. It belongs to Garst Museum.”

Swiatkowski, who had been a social studies teacher for seven years, said he is scheduled to get his master’s degree in the spring of 2015. He has no plans for further education.

“I want to get started working in a museum, doing things like this,” he said. A variety of options included educational programs, community outreach and more.

Marchal said the museum’s partnership with Wright State University has presented unique opportunities. He attributed them to Johnson.

“Clay is a Ph.D.,” he said. “They want their kids to come here and learn. Now there is a waiting list (of students wanting to intern here).”

Johnson said the display was an amazing use of the space leading into the museum’s Village Wing.

“It was well done,” he said. “A great job. You can pat yourself on the back,” he told Swiatkowski. The display is located on the ramp from the Annie Oakley exhibit to the Village Wing.

Visitors to the unveiling of Garst Museum’s “Pathway to the Present: The Towns and Villages of Darke County,” look at the map showing the locations of the villages noted in the photos and descriptions around it. (Bob Robinson photo)

Wright State University master’s candidate and Garst Museum intern Jason Swiatkowski stands in front of his completed project with his two children, Matthew, 10, and Nevaeh, 9. (Bob Robinson photo)

The entrance to the exhibit features an antique weather vane with a striking perspective of railroad tracks in rural Darke County. (Bob Robinson photo)

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