New history museum director brings modern technology to job

A lifelong interest in history and museums has brought Michael Case into the role of director of the Oxford Museum Association (OMA), where he is combining his love of both. In a little bit of irony, he is also bringing modern technology into the job and jokes, “I am trying to bring us into the current century.”

Case began his job as Director of Programs and Properties last October on the first day of the museum association’s Applebutter Festival, although he had been volunteering on the preparation for the event leading up it.

Since then, he has tackled the job which included preparing for last weekend’s 53rd Annual Arts & Crafts Fair. Both events are held on the grounds of the Doty House and Pioneer Farm on Brown Road. They are the two major annual fundraisers for the Oxford Museum Association which provide money for upkeep of the various historic sites overseen by the organization as well as providing educational opportunities for a wide range of regional groups.

Case said his own wide-ranging personal and academic background prepared him for the job and director of the OMA.

“My love of museums started with the Cincinnati Museum Center. The Batcave really captured my imagination,” he said. “I have been to a whole bunch of great museums in the area. The Indianapolis Children’s Museum has got to be the greatest.”

He and his wife, Kelly, met while she was employed at the Miami University Art Museum and their first date was a trip to the Dayton Art Institute.

That, in addition to the history facet, makes this job ideal for Case who started out between Camden and Eaton and started attending the McGuffey Foundation School when he was 7. He moved to Oxford with his parents when he was in the second grade and graduated from Talawanda High School in 1999.

He moved on to Miami University where he majored in anthropology because that was the department where museum studies classes were placed, graduating in 2010.

He worked in Miami’s Anthropology Museum where he created an exhibit but it only remained in place for about six months until the university closed that museum. He also got interested in archaeology while at Miami.

Case said he was accepted into various master’s degree programs, including one in Washington D.C. but decided the cost of living was too high there and chose to go to Kansas where he enrolled in Baker University, 40 minutes from Lawrence, Kan. and got to work in collection storage and had an internship at a Lawrence museum.

Back home, he had an internship at the Miami Art Museum.

“I’ve had experience in virtually everything but children’s museums, a little bit of all genres of museum,” he said.

The Oxford Museum Association is responsible for five primary sites—the Doty Homestead and Pioneer Barn both located on Brown Road adjacent to the Hueston Woods Golf Course, the Doty Cemetery nearby on Brown Road, the Black Covered Bridge on Corso Road off of Morning Sun Road and the DeWitt Cabin on Miami University property off of S.R. 73.

Case has already had a good look at the job and the many areas of responsibility, not only hiring three interns for the summer and presenting programs to six groups of 15 Talawanda District third graders as part of a Nature Experience.

Several trees had to be removed due to damage from the Emerald Ash Borer, the Pioneer Barn was discovered to need attention due to damage from Powder Post Beetles and Carpenter Bees. A hail storm in April damaged three windows on the west side of the Doty Homestead.

On the positive side, Case said he has been working on object preservation using knowledge he had growing up when his parents operated a framing business and he has been working on an inventory of historic objects in the Doty House with the barn next.

He has been working on upgrading the OMA quarterly newsletter with the help of modern technology and has been gradually working technology into other parts of the operation.

“For the newsletter, I use Microsoft Publisher and suddenly the world is so much easier,” he said.

He discovered at the Applebutter Festival, visitors wanted to pay using credit cards but they were not equipped to do that. He had a “square reader” app on his phone, however, and hopped all around the grounds responding to people wanting to charge purchases. Now, the app is being expanded to others who will be capable of accepting payments using that technology.

That technology upgrade will also allow people to pay for memberships and make on-line payments.

He is also on the association’s Facebook page with Weekly Wednesday Facebook Posts where he posts a picture of some implement or item from their collection and explains what it is.

“There are lot of interesting bits of history,” he said. “Some of the items may be grungy but they are functional.”

It’s all part of his goal of bringing the association into the current century while focusing on the history of the area.

He has also been looking at program ideas and wants to be able to offer more.

“I collect skills. I like to make things,” he said, adding he has a hobby of making cheese and is working with the Lane Library to present a program on the history of cheesemaking in Ohio. He is currently learning broom crafting. “People like demonstrations of things.”

A new program this summer will be a “Picnic with the Past” in the Doty Cemetery June 23 and 24. Pioneer community events were often held in cemeteries, he said, and the public is invited to pack a lunch and hear stories about pioneer life and the connection to cemeteries. It will start at noon.

On July 14 and 15, a “Kite-Craft and Flight” program will be held at the Doty Farmstead from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Bring your own kite or make one from 1800s designs and materials.

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