PHOTO: Catherine Whitwell with ServiceMaster by Stechyn & Son donating a check to the Maury County Museum project on Thursday at Spring Hill High School. / Photo by Alexander Willis
By ALEXANDER WILLIS
Catherine Whitwell of ServiceMaster by Stechyn & Son donated $1,000 on Thursday to the Maury County Museum project, a museum to be built entirely by students of Spring Hill High School.
The museum’s full title will be the Maury County Museum & STEAAM Education Center, and would be Maury County’s first ever historical museum. It would be the second history museum in the country to be designed and built entirely by high school students.
STEAAM stands for science, technology, art, agriculture and math, and the multi-building complex would house education classes as well as the actual history museum.
Whitwell first heard about the museum from her son Brantly, a Spring Hill High School sophomore who is helping with the project.
“I loved it, because my husband and his whole family are native to this area, and I just think it’s great,” Whitwell said. “We need the memories to be brought back. The children nowadays don’t know what it was like back [then]. There is not a town like Columbia, because everything in Spring Hill was burnt down in a fire a long, long time ago.”
Whitwell was referring to a large fire that nearly destroyed Spring Hill in the early 20th century, in which much of its history was lost.
Besides the inherent value of preserving and celebrating a city’s history, Whitwell also praised what such a project could do for students participating in the design and construction phases.
“There’s not enough craftsman, or carpenters, or anything like that anymore,” Whitwell said. “I think it would be great for skilled trades to get back in. College is great, but we also need skilled trade. This is a great avenue that we need to bring back to the culture.”
Whitwell said she hopes to continue supporting the project as it develops.
Gwynne Evans, a teacher at Spring Hill High School for 17 years and a commissioner for Maury County, was the original spark that lead to the project’s creation. Evans had come up with the idea after visiting the Museum of Scott County in East Tennessee, the first museum in the country to be built and designed entirely by high school students.
Evans, along with more than a dozen students working on the project, was there at Spring Hill High School on Thursday to accept the $1,000 donation from Whitwell. He said he was “blown away” by the generosity.
“I was blown away, I wasn’t really expecting it,” Evans said about the donation. “For me, it says this is going to go, [that] the community’s behind it,” Evans said. “A lot of people have said it’s a great idea, but now people are saying ‘here’s this, here’s materials.’”
The museum has already procured some item donations, such as civil war muskets, photos, scrapbooks, and other historical memorabilia. The project would also include the aforementioned STEAAM center that would house classes, and a 19th century-style boardwalk where students would sell Raiders’ products and other items for continued revenue.
The project also achieved official nonprofit 501(c) status earlier this month, making the acceptance of donations a much easier prospect. Additionally, the Maury County Historical Society awarded the project a grant last month. This allowed Evans and his team of students to purchase PastPerfect, an archival piece of software used by museums worldwide.
While Evans was blown away by the recent support from the community, he said because the project is such a massive undertaking, he is still seeking assistance. He said it needs volunteers, engineers or donations to move forward.
“We’re trying to get it to as many people as we can,” Evans said. “Not everybody’s able to write a check, so what we’re looking for is connections, we’re trying to get the word out.”
Donations of historical items, funding, and land are all welcome, and can be facilitated by calling Evans at (931) 698-5804.