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ArlingtonHistorical Society optimistic about partnership to renovate museum

Historical Society optimistic about partnership to renovate museum

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As efforts begin to renovate its museum, the Arlington Historical Society is working to embrace close collaboration where possible with the Arlington County government.

Whether that will turn into a financial partnership remains to be seen, but county staff will be providing their knowledge to help the renovation move ahead.

Society officials last year announced plans for a major renovation of its 19th-century Hume School building on Arlington Ridge Road, which has served as the organization’s museum of county history since the 1960s, when it was deeded to the society by the county school system.

The process will be a methodical, incremental one, society president Cathy Bonneville Hix told the Sun Gazette.

“Currently we are moving forward with phase one of our project, with the primary task of restoring our windows,” she said. “We are currently seeking storage space for some of our artifacts, which will help facilitate the window restoration.”

As part of the effort, staff from the county government’s historic-preservation staff have “reached out and are providing expertise” on the process, something Hix said she was grateful for.

Close collaboration with the county staff is probably a smart move for all concerned. As a designated local historic district, any exterior changes to the Hume School building must be conducted under the watchful eye of the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board, so having staff as an intermediary likely will ensure open communication and a smoother project.

As to the ultimate extent of the county government’s willingness to partner on the project? That could depend on budget constraints, although there has been an open dialogue with county leaders over the past year on the proposal. During an historical-society event last September, former county Treasurer Frank O’Leary made an impassioned plea for county-government support, noting that the government of the city of Alexandria (with about two-thirds Arlington’s population) funds multiple museums.

Contacted recently, O’Leary said he believes the county government harbors the desire to assist in the renovation effort.

“I think our prospects are bright,” he told the Sun Gazette.

The Historical Society has been working with Milner Preservation Group (an arm of Arlington-based MTFA Architeture) to develop a phased approach to a project that, in the end, could cost $1.5 million to complete. Society officials hope a variety of funding sources – the state government, businesses, philanthropic organizations and individuals in addition to possible county-government backing – will carry the project to completion.

The Hume School operated from the 1890s to the 1950s; the Arlington School Board then transferred the property to the Historical Society, with a proviso that it be perpetually used for an educational purpose. Currently, exhibits are housed largely on the main level of the three-level structure.

After being closed due to COVID for 15 months, the museum reopened on the nation’s 245th birthday (July 4, 2021), and the goal – if only a symbolic one – is to complete a top-to-bottom renovation and reimagining of the facility in time for the nation’s 250th. Currently, the museum is open Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

For more information, and a video on the past, present and future of the Arlington Historical Museum, see the Website at www.arlingtonhistoricalsociety.org.

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