New area history museum is in the works in Wheeling

WHEELING — A plan to start a Wheeling history museum will soon be in the works, Mayor Glenn Elliott said.

Historian Travis Henline will serve as museum project manager starting Jan. 14 in a new position co-funded by the City of Wheeling, the Ohio County Commission, Wheeling Heritage and the Wheeling Convention and Visitors Bureau, Elliott said.

Henline, former site manager of West Virginia Independence Hall and a Native American studies lecturer at West Virginia University, will be tasked with forming a “realistic, achievable plan” for starting the museum, Elliott said. The museum will serve as a hub for artifacts, photographs and stories that share the Wheeling experience.

“The idea for a Wheeling History Museum is not new — it has been talked about for decades,” Elliott said Monday. “And that’s because Wheeling has a very rich historical record that deserves to be told to a broad audience.”

The city’s contribution would be in the $5,000 to $10,000 range, Elliott said, with a projected salary range of around $40,000.

The idea for the museum came about through the Wheeling 250 Committee, charged with planning celebratory activities for the city’s 250th birthday this year.

“A consensus emerged that the Wheeling 250 effort, in addition to highlighting and showcasing the city’s past, should also be used to create momentum for a ‘leave behind’ for future generations.” Elliott said. “A museum telling Wheeling’s unique story seemed like the best fit.”

Though the museum is just a concept at this point, Elliott said he envisions a space that tells a story with educational information and physical exhibits.

The museum would utilize local historians and display historical artifacts now-hidden in archives, basements and attics.

“Hopefully, the ingredients are there for a very entertaining and viable museum,” he said.

Henline brings vast knowledge of West Virginia and Wheeling history to the project, Elliott said, adding that he has real-world experience running a museum through his time at the West Virginia Independence Hall.

“His energy and background will be invaluable as he works to bring this museum from the concept stage to reality,” Elliott said.

Elliott said he would hope to house the new museum in one of downtown Wheeling’s vacant, older buildings. If everything goes to plan through identifying a site, renovating it and building a collection, the museum would likely open before 2021, he said.

“This would serve the purpose of providing the museum with an appropriate historical feel, adding one more feature for visitors and residents to experience in our central business district,” Elliott said.

In addition, he said the project will require a collaboration of city partners and the support of local donors to come to fruition.

“As a community, we have shown what is possible when we work together,” Elliott said. “The Capital Theatre would likely not be standing today were it not for a very successful collaboration. We are going to need a similar effort to make the Wheeling History Museum a reality.”