Museum relishes the past with a look to the future for its 90th anniversary

  • The Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum is celebrating its 90th anniversary, first opening in 1931 at the Old Sycamore Schoolhouse.
  • The Capture the Light photographic exhibition with more than 100 pieces serves as an unofficial anniversary exhibition.
  • The museum contains more than 15,000 objects bequeathed from the collection of David and John Johnson.
  • Among the best-known artifacts are the Newark Holy Stones, their legitimacy has long been debated.

COSHOCTON – A Coshocton institution that can trace its history long before its founding celebrates its 90th anniversary.

The Johnson-Humickhouse Museum in Roscoe Village opened in 1931, in the old Sycamore School via a bequest of 15,000 objects from brothers David and John Johnson. The two grew up in Coshocton in the 1840s and became successful businessmen, traveling the world and collecting cultural and historical items that caught their attention.

After settling in Tacoma, Washington, the brothers wanted a museum in Coshocton honoring the Johnson and Humrickhouse sides of their ancestry with their collection. The Coshocton County Library Board of Trustees became the overseer of the collection and began forming the museum in 1924.

In 1979, the museum moved to its current home in Roscoe Village, which recently underwent renovations. It has more than 17,000 articles. Many items are in storage and parts are turned from time to time. Its most famous display is probably the controversial Newark Holy Stones.

Galleries include Native American, Early Ohio, Progressive Ohio, and Beyond our Borders. A special exhibition gallery features various exhibits and now hosts the regional photography exhibition Capture the Light until December 31.

The Early Ohio Gallery is part of the Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum, which is celebrating its 90th anniversary.

Capture the light

Capture the Light serves as an unofficial 90th anniversary exhibit. Jennifer Bush, director of the museum, said no strictly photographic exhibitions had been held before.

It contains over 100 photos from 30 photographers who live, work, attend school, or grew up in Coshocton, Muskingum, Licking, Holmes and Tuscarawas counties. The pieces vary in styles, techniques and formats and contain subjects from across the region and around the world.

“I know several artists and I see their works on Facebook. We said, “Let’s do a photo exhibition. We’ve never had one before, ”said Bush. “We reached out to different people on Facebook, from different Coshocton Facebook groups, and it really grew from there.”

Jennifer Bush, Director of the Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum, presents photos from the current Capture the Light photographic exhibition.  It runs until December 31st.  The museum is celebrating its 90th anniversary.

A story of the past, present and future

Bush believes that a brand new exhibition concept is good for the 90th anniversary, as it illustrates how the museum is dedicated to capturing and presenting history with an eye on the present and the future. .

Being in Roscoe Village is fine, Bush said, because both are about the past without getting stuck in it.

“I think it’s important for our community to learn more about the history and the people here before us. Why they were here, what their life was like and what happened to them”, a- she said of the Native American and Early Ohio galleries.

For the Beyond our Borders gallery, it’s about showing people cultures that they wouldn’t have the opportunity to experience in any other way. Much of the piece is from Japan and China, with some artefacts dating back hundreds of years.

“It gives people in the community a chance to learn more about their culture. How many of us are going to travel to Asia? Few of us will have this opportunity,” said Bush. “It’s seeing what else is there and learning about other cultures and how other people lived all over the world.”

Bush is always surprised by people who say they’ve never been to the museum or the new building since the move over 40 years ago. Programs, like Our Town Stories with residents sharing stories about Coshocton’s past, have helped attract newcomers.

“Once we bring people here and into the museum, they really appreciate it,” Bush said.

The Newark Holy Stones are one of the most famous objects in the Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum.  The 2020 remodel saw an update to the display, including an iPad kiosk with information on controversial items.

Sacred Stones of Newark

The museum also serves as a tourist attraction. Bush said visitors outside the area are generally amazed at the type and number of artifacts he has available.

“I’m not sure you will find something like this in a small town or anywhere in Ohio. I don’t think there is a collection like ours,” she said.

The Newark Holy Stones attract visitors from all over the world. Many stories have been written about the stones in newspapers and magazines and they have appeared in television programs on the History Channel and others.

Bush wrote an article detailing the history and controversy of the Newark Holy Stones this summer for the Tribune’s sister publication, the Newark Advocate. It has long been debated whether the carved stones engraved with Hebrew letters found in the 1860s at the Newark earthworks were real or fake.

They were originally discovered by David Wyrick and were believed to be evidence of a lost tribe of Israelites who had lived in North America. Short of cash, Wyrick sold the stones to the Johnson Brothers in 1862.

Part of the recent remodel involved revamping the display of holy stones. It now includes an iPad kiosk that visitors can browse with historical archaeological and contextual evidence. The presentation was hosted by Brad Lepper, archaeologist from the Ohio History Connection, and his museum colleagues Jeff Gill and Reba Kocher.

The Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum opened in 1931 at Old Sycamore School and moved to its current home in Roscoe Village in 1979. The museum is celebrating its 90th anniversary.

And after

Programs and special events were mostly suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic. Bush said they hope to have a series on the Newark earthworks next summer.

The special exhibition for next summer has not yet been decided. Next fall will likely feature works from the Coshocton Art Guild.

The Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum at 300 N. Whitewoman St. is open from noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. For more information, call the museum at 740-622-8710, email [email protected], or visit Admission is $ 5 for adults, $ 4 for children, $ 15 for families and free for members of the Friends of the Museum.

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