The Town of Aurora's museum – with its Roycroft memorabilia, mix of vintage sketches of early East Aurora and various tidbits of town heritage – has a promising future in a new home.
After town offices relocated recently to the new Southside Municipal Center from the old chapel building on the Roycroft Campus, the museum has more space and a dedicated mission to better focus its exhibits and enhance the town's historical presentation.
"At the chapel, the [historical] area served as a meeting room and public space," said Town Historian Robert L. Goller. "Here, it's a little more controlled space and more open hours. We can have this open a lot more. There is definitely a demand for it. People are calling."
Goller said the museum will be better organized, with improved displays, and more protected. It will also be more user-friendly, in that it will be handicapped-accessible, which was problematic when town offices were at the chapel.
Goller is excited about his task and said the "re-grand opening" of the Aurora Historical Museum is slated for May, when the Historical Society's other two museums – the Millard Fillmore House Museum and Elbert Hubbard Roycroft Museum – open for the regular season from May through October. The town's research library, however, is open Fridays from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Southside Municipal Center.
Also tied into the move is the intertwining of the historian's office and the museum together in the same space. The room is three times the size of the former historian's office, which was tucked upstairs in the Roycroft chapel with odd, little spaces and very tall ceilings.
"I know some people were concerned about the town museum moving out of the Roycroft [Campus]," Goller said. "But I think the Roycroft needs to be the Roycroft, with the town museum being separate in another place.
"The town museum has a lot more beyond the Roycroft. This can be a general museum for the town."
Since moving day occurred earlier this fall, Goller's office and new museum space is chock-full of Roycroft artifacts and many other goodies.
There is a jumble of boxes and files, Roycroft furniture, a medicine bag from one of the town's earliest doctors, a detailed scrapbook of residents who served in World War I, diaries written by residents in the 1800s chronicling daily life, toys from Toy Town and from some of the smaller, earlier toy companies that didn't last long, as well as artifacts from East Aurora's early settlers and a Native American tool collection.
Also noteworthy are vintage murals of East Aurora by locally famous artist Rix Jennings, who also designed the town's logo and was an artist-in-residence for East Aurora years ago.
"Locally, these things are priceless because they tell the story of East Aurora," Goller said of Jennings' works, which included murals showing the area before the settlers came, 19th century homes, Millard Fillmore's influence, and a look toward the future, which has since become part of local history itself. The murals will be displayed more prominently.
"We're not sure when they're going to go up, but we want to do it right," said Goller, who also was recently hired as Aurora Historical Society director.
"Prayer for the Lost at Sea," a 10-by-6-foot painting by Sandor Landeau, an artist on the Roycroft Campus, also will be part of the town museum. The painting, which won a gold medal at the Paris Salon of 1907, had been on display in the meeting room, but was much too high to view properly.
The Historical Society has two rotating exhibits, but Goller said fresh exhibits will be done in the new space.
The Roycroft sideboard that was in the old chapel made the move to the new Town Hall, as well as six Roycroft mission chairs that were commonly used at town meetings in the chapel and were donated to the high school by the Classes of 1919 and 1920.
The Historical Society, which owns many collections, is dedicated to the general history of the town and runs the three museums.
"People don't even know what we have,"Goller said of the town museum. "There are a lot of projects that had to wait because there wasn't enough space before."