MONETTE -- Entering the Buffalo Island Museum in Monette is like stepping back in time as it is brimming with artifacts and collectibles dating back to the 1800's.
In January 1997 museum founder Gerald Pitts was granted permission from the Monette City Council to establish the museum in the old community building at the city park. The park structure was built in 1932 by the Monette High School district to house its vocational agriculture department. The building lay vacant, except for storage, after the construction of a new Monette community center at 429 West Williams.
Former Monette Mayor Robert Flannigan Sr. proclaimed Saturday, Aug. 9, 1997, as Buffalo Island Museum Day in Monette as the Buffalo Island Museum had its grand opening ceremony. City officials and dignitaries were on hand for the celebration.
The museum had been the dream of several local historians and was soon filled with items depicting the region's past, all on loan from local residents in the area. Artifacts include knives and firearms, a dugout canoe carved from a log, antique farm tools, a century-old doll and other toys, dishes, books, cameras, hats, musical instruments, dental and medical equipment, an old Coca-Cola machine, a 19th century barber's chair, memorabilia from the estate of state senators Tom and Gladys Watson, old photographs, books from and about Buffalo Island people and places, handiwork from local artists, a street vending container carried by "Hot Tamale John," jewelry, an ancient Masonic Lodge jacket and, to cap it all off, a two-seat privy.
"Making this museum a reality was a community effort," said B.I. Museum committee member,Jerry Reed. "The building needed a lot of renovation work before we could move the collections into it. Three large sections of the wooden floor in the front portion of the building had been damaged by water and termites and had to be replaced. There was also ceiling and wall damage that had to be fixed. The museum committee along with several other volunteers donated labor and materials to get the job done."
"We take great pride in this museum because it is for the people," said museum curator Gerald Pitts. "For years people in this area have longed for and wished for a place to display antique items, and now they have one. There are still a lot of things out there that have not been brought to the museum yet, and we plan to keep adding to the collection."
Committee member Roma Harper, assisted by Joyce Chrisman, spends countless hours to label and catalogue each item in the museum with the name of the owner, the name of the item, and the year is was constructed.
After a break-in and several other burglary attempts, Monette Mayor David Fletcher and the Monette City Council had a building security system installed to protect the valuable antiques enclosed in the museum. The City of Monette retains ownership of the museum.
The museum is open weekly from 1 to 4 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. There is no admission to the museum, but donations are accepted at a drop box at the entrance. The museum will be open at other times with prior arrangements made with museum committee members or the city.