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History center to reopen June 11, new research annex to open July 1

The Cape Girardeau County History Center will reopen on June 11, with new exhibits and new procedures to keep visitors safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, history center staff have spent their down time to get the historical society’s new research center ready to open on July 1.

The Cape Girardeau County Research Center, lovingly referred to as the history center’s annex, will be located at 110 S. High Street in Jackson – just a few doors down from the history center.

“The annex has been a dream of ours for five years because we knew we had these amazing collections,” History Center Director Carla Jordan said. Jordan said the historical society has accumulated books, documents and photographs since its creation in 1926, which are not always on display at the history center.

Now, with the research center soon to open, residents and researchers will have a space to privately and quietly go through these items. In addition to genealogical documents, civil war books and several small document collections, Jordan said the Lorimier-Rodney Founders Collection will also be available to researchers at the annex.

The Lorimier-Rodney collection, which was donated to the historical society a few years ago, incudes documents and papers owned by Cape Girardeau founder Louis Lorimier and his family.

Jordan said she expects their documents collection to continue to grow, as more people have donated their collections since the research annex was announced.  “There is some truth to ‘if you build it, they will come,’” she said.

The research center will be open for appointment at first, but Jordan hopes to have some open hours for the public to browse the collection once COVID-19 safety procedures are no longer needed. Appointments can be made by calling the history center at 573-979-5170.

The history center will have new exhibits on Louis Houck, the street railway system in Cape Girardeau and volunteer Wanda Pruitt. Other exhibits, such as one featuring Bob Keathley’s collection on the 101 Ranch in Oklahoma, will be new to most visitors as they were finished just before history center closed.

Jordan said the closing allowed the center to take the time to make these new exhibits perfect, saying “in the museum world, you rarely have time to actually do things textbook, and we’ve been able to do that and set an example for the region.”

She added that during the shutdown, the history center has been thoroughly cleaned twice, work has been done on the center’s online presence and procedures have been made for how to keep the visitors and volunteers safe from contracting the corona-virus.

“We are going to maintain social distance, but there is nothing that you can’t do in here at social distance,” Jordan said. The history center will be limited to 10 people at a time, and all will be required to wear a mask. In addition, visitors will be required to wash their hands after entering the building.

“We’ve consulted with the Cape Girardeau and Perry County health departments, as well as some folks at Saint Francis that work with infectious disease,” Jordan said. “We’ve been very fortunate to have many mentors in how we are going to deal with this.”

Jordan said these precautions are especially necessary to protect the 70 volunteers that staff the center. She said most of those volunteers are over 50 years old, and are therefore more susceptible to getting COVID-19. “It’s been rough because when you work with a majority older population, you have to be so much more protective during pandemics,” Jordan said.

However, Jordan said that everyone is ready to move forward and do everything they can to open safely. “We are ready to be back open,” she said. “We’ve missed everyone.”

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past four years. He can be reached at cbjedit@socket.net.

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