Cheryl Franklin

Grove Sun

Har-Ber Village board of trustees outlined their vision for the future of the village Saturday night to a group of local business owners, community leaders and individuals.

Trustee Pete Churchwell said the village will be going in a new direction in the future.

“We are in the process of an exciting revolution which has been described as going from a static museum to a dynamic museum as we take advantage of increasing opportunities to interact with individuals, our community and our region and as we work to fulfill the mission of Harvey and Bernice Jones which is to preserve the history of those who carved civilization out of the wilderness,” he said.

The land was purchased by the Jones’ in 1944 and they began to house their antique collections. The outdoor walk-through museum opened in 1968 and is one of the largest antique museums in the country with 112 buildings housing countless collections of antiques and memorabilia in a rural 1800’s village setting.

The most recent development includes the visitor’s center and the gallery room which is intended for use by the village as well as use by the public. The room has bench style seating and a projector. The outdoor ecology center just outside the gate and the nature trail are also now open to the public.

Area artisans were also on hand during the evening to display their work and to help validate the village’s effort to partner with the arts.

“We want to be the focal point for the arts and humanities in northeast Oklahoma,” Churchwell said.

The board is looking for new ways to reach a broader public spectrum, including evening programs, traveling exhibits and virtual access to the village.

“Imagine, if you will, HarBer Village with an amphitheater for plays, concerts and lectures," said Churchwell. “We already have the drawings for the amphitheater and a perfect location for it.”

The hill behind the chapel that faces the lake is the place the board has in mind for the amphitheater.

“We also want to create a venue for artisans and craftsmen to be able to interact with each other and the public. Imagine a studio or a classroom for artisans and the public can come together on the grounds of Har-Ber Village,” he said.

Churchwell said they are also currently working on a new display which will focus on transportation specifically the part that railroads built in developing this part of Oklahoma.

“Modern museums offer opportunities for visitors to touch and interact with displays and collections. Visitors today want understanding and learning and dialogue and vision instead of just viewing displays,” he said.

Church said that technology will play an amazing role in bringing back visitors from the past and attracting tomorrow’s visitors.

The board also wants to see HarBer Village authenticate and communicate the contributions that the Cherokee tribe has made to the development of this land from 1825 to 1900. They are currently working on developing a partnership with the Cherokee Nation to help the village reflect that important history that is currently missing from the village.

The Jones’ goal for the village was for it to be free and open to the public. The village has been funded primarily by the Har-Ber Village Trust as well as contributions from the Jones family trust. While the endowment was intended to meet all of our financial needs and although the village is currently economically solvent, Churchwell says that the current level of income and expenses we will exhaust the endowment in 9-10 years.

The village is in need of more community support, benefactors, and advocates.

“We need community leaders to support us in the community and help us financially. We need your ideas and experience, we want you to talk us up and help us tell our story,” Churchwell said.

In addition, the village would welcome all kinds of in-kind services such as welding, plumbing, tree trimming and all kinds of skilled craftwork.

“This board is committed to keeping Har-Ber Village pertinent to our society, interactive with our citizens, reflecting the history of our ancestors and remaining economically vital.” Churchwell said.

“It is the planning and execution of today that makes the success of the future. Our board and our trustees have undertaken an aggressive review of all the ways we can generate more interest and income for the village.”

The board is also looking at partnering with public entities such as regional colleges and universities along with regional collections and museums like the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa.

“Perhaps most important, we want and need to build a strong partnership with the citizens of Grove, Delaware County and the entire lake community,” said Churchwell.

Churchwell, along with the village’s director Jan Norman, introduced membership cards and urged the group to get involved and get their friends, family and colleagues involved in the vision of the village.

From 1968 to 1999 the Oklahoma Department of Tourism reports that more than 2 million people visited the village, the state no longer keeps those types of record but on the recent Labor Day weekend Har-Ber Village saw more than 1000 visitors. The village reported more than 500 cars on Saturday at the village, which offered free admission on that day. So far, in 2010, HarBer Village had visitors from 44 states and 21 foreign countries.

“Most people in Grove and around the lake know that we’re here but they don’t have any particular attraction to the village or attachment to the village. The village is largely taken for granted – and that’s our fault. We haven’t told our story and we want to start to change that tonite,” he said.