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History museum gets first donation

Life will end, but a life’s work can last and last.

Bonnie Cole’s will.

On Tuesday, the 94-year-old historian and genealogical expertbecame the first contributor to the Lincoln County Historical andGenealogical Society Museum by donating the first of many boxes ofdocuments that detail local history. During her 70-year career, shehas amassed thousands of pages that network generations of localfamilies and trace schools and churches back to their roots.

Soon, the work will be catalogued and available for all tosee.

“I want other people to be able to read it and learn about allthese people and places,” Cole said. “This is part of our history -part of Lincoln County, Miss., family history. When I read therewas a museum, I was so proud.”

Cole’s collection is a great start for a museum that aims notonly to display, but to teach. But much more is needed – andeveryone in Lincoln County will have a chance to contribute.

Beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 20, the historical societywill host its first selection session, in which any member of thepublic may bring items relevant to county history – documents,photographs and artifacts – for the three-person selection panel toconsider for display in the museum.

Society president Rita Rich said items would be selected orturned away based on relevance to county history in multiplecategories, including agriculture, industry, retail and more.Written histories will also be considered, she said, and thesociety is particularly interested in histories of the county’searly schools.

“Any items that are of historical significance to Lincoln Countyand its growth,” she said. “Old retail signs, old text books fromthe schools, hymn books from the old churches.”

Rich said the museum would eventually seek displays on loan,understanding that some local families will not want to give awaypersonally important items. The selection session on Feb. 20 willfocus primarily on permanent donations to the museum, she said.

That day will mark the end of a two-year journey for thehistorical society, which formed and began searching for a museumin early 2008.

The museum is the former Temple B’nai Shalom, Brookhaven’s lastJewish house of worship. It was turned over to the society on a99-year deed from its caretakers last August, and will eventuallyhouse a Jewish heritage display alongside county history.

“I’m excited. I’ve been waiting to have a museum for years,”said historical society board member Carroll Montgomery.