Sprucing up history's home

Among the investments Louisa County makes when it comes to preserving its heritage, few can rival the importance of the Sargeant Museum, home of the Louisa County Historical Society. 

That investment needs to grow if the museum is to thrive, said Karleen Kovalcik, the society’s executive director. 

The structure, known prior to the museum’s opening in 2008 as the Sargeant-Pettit House, was built in 1914 by Frank Sargeant, who owned a hardware store in town. Now, the building is in need of repairs and upgrades that current levels of funding aren’t going to address.  

“This year we pinpointed three goals,” Kovalcik said. “One is to do what’s called a ‘museum refresh.’ The museum opened in 2008 and hasn’t seen a lot of maintenance in terms of the physical structure. So those needs are obviously some of the most pressing.”

The peeling and flaking paint is the issue that is most visible, and for that reason, Kovalcik said that is a top priority for her.

“We successfully raised the funds to have half of the building’s exterior repainted this fall,” she said. “We’re going to focus on the sides of the building where the weather exposure damage is the worst, including the front porch area. We don’t have the funding to have the entire building repainted yet.”

Part two of Kovalcik’s three-phase plan is technology. The museum currently runs off DSL internet, which is not fast enough to support streaming video or uploading files. Both are a necessity for the museum’s day-to-day operation.  

The internet is the most pressing technological issue at the museum, but hardly the most daunting. Once the speed issue is resolved, Kovalcik wants to digitize the more than 10,000 documents and files in the historical society archives. 

“It’s a precursor to the next phase,” she said. “It’s very difficult to take on a large-scale digitization process if we don’t have reliable internet.”

DSL typically has a download speed of three megabits per second and one mbps upload, speeds that would make digitization a glacially slow process. 

The third phase of upgrades involves staffing. The historical society revolves around volunteers who help man the front desk at the museum and assist during events, but the only full-time employee is Kovalcik. 

“The third phase is the hardest, and that’s hiring a part-time volunteer and program manager,” she said. “We have grown and we’d like to continue to grow, but we’ve exceeded our capacity for a one full-time staff member operation.”

Kovalcik said she hopes to fundraise through the many events the society has planned in the near future. With hearth cooking classes, free family days, lectures, workshops and the December holiday open house, Louisa County residents have plenty of opportunities to come learn what the society is doing to preserve local history and share it with the world. 

The Sargeant Museum is located at 214 Fredericksburg Ave, in the town of Louisa.