New museum director starts at McKinley Library

NILES — Youngstown resident Amber Farris has been named the new director at the McKinley Birthplace Museum.

Farris, who began her duties in May, said she will focus on programming and reaching out to the people of Niles.

“I want to bring the museum into 2018. There are people who do not even realize there is a museum here,” Farris said. “When people come to the main door and look inside, they see an auditorium. We are doing a campaign to change that.” A new museum logo will be part of the changes, she said.

Farris received her bachelor’s degree in art history and psychology and interned at the Butler Institute of American Art. She received her master’s degree in American studies and took a graduate assistanceship at the Steel Museum in Youngstown. She said she started working with Dr. Marcel Wilson of the McKinley Museum learning about collections and gaining experience.

“This is phenomenal,” Farris said. “I started here and never thought I would get the opportunity to become a museum curator or director.”

She has worked on updating the museum’s mission statement, which is dedicated to honoring the memory of President William McKinley and displaying and explaining historical artifacts related to him.

“We are taking all the collection we currently have and are working on the interpretation and presentation,” Farris said.

She said Youngstown State University graduate students did the display cases of the museum under Wilson’s guidance a few years ago. Plans are to update some of the other displays and exhibits.

“I will be putting together new exhibits. We have discussed putting an exhibit in the lobby area so when people come to the front door, they will see it is a museum. We want to make it look more like a museum,” Farris said.

Busts of the various people who donated money to make the memorial a reality are throughout the museum.

“These are not necessarily names most people would know. My goal is taking a photo of each and doing a digital online exhibit. I also would like signage by each to show why they are important,” Farris said.

She said she also will explain and provide information about the museum exhibits.

“People come here and ask questions about what they see here. We need to include the importance of each item,” she said.

Plans are also to partner with the McKinley Memorial Library, as she and library director Michelle Alleman will attend a presidential site summit this summer in Washington, D.C.

“Every four years, all of the museum site directors get together for presidential sites and work together on programs at workshops,” she said.

An upcoming event is an Ohio History Center open door weekends Sept. 8 at the McKinley Replica Home and a panel discussion on the building of the memorial Sept. 15 at the McKinley Memorial.

“Plans are for the library and museum to work together more, making them bigger and making them more McKinley specific to draw people here,” she said.

Other events being planned are McKinley’s birthday in January, speakers and film viewing for Presidents Day, Ida McKinley’s birthday in June, pumpkin walk on the library and museum grounds in October, and McKinley Christmas in December.

“Ida had epilepsy, but no one ever talked about it. We are discussing have a speaker to discuss disabilities,” she said.

Admission to the museum is free.

bcoupland@tribtoday.com

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