A major state grant will help protect and preserve a veritable storehouse of county history–one that in itself has become a community landmark.
Since the 1970s, The Hernando Historical Museum Assoc., Inc. has kept the history, heirlooms and heritage of Hernando County alive through its maintenance and presentation of a trio of historical buildings; its extensive research and genealogical resources; and its presence at and presentation of community events.
“We’re a basket of information about Hernando and Florida heritage,” said Mary Sheldon, HHMA president. “We collect and display artifacts to tell of the lives of people in the 1800s and early 1900s.”
Yet for the first time in its five decade history, and in the eye of a global pandemic, the association closed its three signature buildings–the Victorian style May-Stringer House, the 1885 Depot and the Countryman One-Room Schoolhouse–March 12.
“We’ve never seen anything like this,” said Sheldon.
Yet thanks to a $5,000 grant from the Florida Humanities CARES fund, the association dedicated to preserving our yesterdays can be guaranteed a brighter tomorrow.
Awarded to help cover utilities during the coronavirus shutdown, funding has been provided to Hernando Historical Museum Assoc., Inc., from the National Endowment for the Humanities through a grant from Florida Humanities as part of the 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020.
And, in Sheldon’s eyes, the funds were greatly needed.
“The bulk of our funds come from tours,” she said. “We’ve had no tours since March 12. The Blueberry Festival, where we send representatives, was cancelled.”
Yet while the visitors and events have stopped for the time being, the bills keep coming.
“The typical electric bill is $800-1,000 a month,” said Sheldon. “We also have a security system, telephone/Internet and water bills to pay.”
Although the Museums receive widespread community and public official support, no public funding is provided from the City, County or State government. In an effort to secure funds, Kathy Vidal, Museum Treasurer and Judith Everett, former Museum Board Member, wrote a grant application that secured the association an award of $5,000.
“We were hoping for $1,000, maybe $3,000,” said Sheldon. “We got the maximum amount.”
During the closure, the association has continued to serve the public, answering phone and e-mail questions regarding Hernando history, and maintaining an informational website (http://www.hernandohistoricalmuseumassoc.com/index.htm) that offers historical house photos, links to informational resources and information regarding Hernando cemeteries, and an online bookstore that features reads pertaining to Hernando history. And on Friday and Saturday nights, members of the public may book small group nighttime Ghost Tours of the May-Stringer House; tours conducted by appointment only, with masked, gloved docents and full sanitization methods in place.
Sheldon says that regular daily tours–also conducted with complete safety measures in place–are tentatively scheduled to resume the second week of July; and with any luck, the association hopes to host its annual Haunted House fund-raiser this October. In addition, community members are encouraged to support the association by donating here: http://www.hernandohistoricalmuseumassoc.com/donation.htm.
“The Hernando Historical Museum Association provides the community with the opportunity to step into the past,” the website reads, “and learn the history of the county and the state of Florida.”