Chelsea celebrates Historical Museum opening

CHELSEA – The Chelsea Historical Museum opened its doors to the public for the first time during a ribbon cutting ceremony and celebration on Sunday, June 10. The new museum is located at the Crane House on Weldon Drive, which previously housed the city’s public library.

According to Chelsea Historical Society President Tony Nivens, the original museum was located at Chelsea City Hall, but few people knew of its existence.

Once the Historical Society formed in 2017, Nivens said he was approached by the mayor about re-establishing the museum once the library moved out of the Crane House. He said this is the Chelsea Historical Museum’s first independent location.

At the event, Nivens said he was happy to see how many people came to celebrate with the Historical Society.

“I am thrilled. I am so happy to see so many people who love Chelsea and love Chelsea history,” Nivens said. “Our goal as the Historical Society is to enhance, preserve and share the history of Chelsea. We hope the museum will be a place to share that love of Chelsea.”

The celebration also honored the state’s bicentennial, as well as the city’s 110th anniversary as a populated area.

The event featured a presentation and a reading of “Trapped in the Crossfire: A Civil War Saga of the Endurance of Family” by local author Gladys Hodge Sherrer and presentation from Alabama Bicentennial Ambassador Bobby Joe Seales.

Seales, who was present when the museum first opened at City Hall, said he was impressed by how far the museum has come.

“When Earl Niven was the mayor, he stated that one day the museum would move,” Seales said. “Sure enough, 12 years later, it’s moved here.”

The museum features three rooms: The Agriculture Room, the Industry Room and the Incorporation Room. The Agriculture Room focuses on the city’s history between the 1800s to 1906, the Industry Room covers history from 1906 to 1995 and the Incorporation Room focuses on what has happened from Chelsea’s establishment as a city in 1996 to the present.

The museum also has a meeting room and a technology area with eight computers that were donated. The museum’s lobby also features a rotating exhibit of the work of local artists and authors.

Chelsea Middle School teacher Blake Lovett, who grew up in the city, said he believes the key word for the museum is “narrative.”

“The Chelsea where I grew up in the ’90s is not the Chelsea we have today,” Lovett said.

Nivens said there were many individuals and organizations who deserved credit for the museum’s opening.

“This took tons of work from the city, the mayor and my team from the Historical Society,” Nivens said.

Mayor Tony Picklesimer said the museum’s opening was a significant point in the city’s history, and he was happy to see the Crane House being put to good use.

“This is a momentous day for our city,” Picklesimer said. “I have so enjoyed watching this building be put back together. It has served our city well.”

Picklesimer pledged the city’s continuous support of the Chelsea Historical Museum and the Chelsea Historical Society “as (they) make the history of Chelsea part of our everyday life.”

Nivens said the Chelsea Historical Museum is staffed by volunteers from the Chelsea Historical Society on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, as well as on Saturday mornings. He said everyone is welcome.

“If you love Chelsea, you have a place here,” Nivens said. “We want to hear your coming-to-Chelsea story.”