History On Display Makes A Return
Oskaloosa, Iowa – It has been stored for sixteen years and was but a memory for many. Occasionally a conversation would come up about something that used to be displayed in that case. On Saturday, the Oskaloosa Historical Montage was unveiled once again.
Nearly 100 people packed the west entrance of Penn Central Mall to see the restored work of art. Older residents and younger alike watched as the black plastic was pulled away, and for some memories rushed back.
The montage was originally built back in 1985 by Marv Smith and Tom Stone and was officially unveiled in 1986. The collection included photographs, building caps and other artifacts that tell Oskaloosa’s history from the 1800s until the 1980s. “The collection tells a story of buildings and people who have served the community over the years, creating the strong foundations and traditions that continue today.”
Marv and Tom, who were known locally for their creative abilities, started the process of collecting photos and artifacts that represented Oskaloosa’s past, and also helped to preserve items from the buildings that once stood in the footprint of the mall. In all, 356 items make up the Montage that was built for $80,000 in 1986.
Local historian Chuck Russell and his wife Emily donated many of the Montage pictures and artifacts. Emily said, “It became a running joke in our family that year to have Chuck say, ‘Marv and Tom have been here again and took things out of our barn.’”
The YMCA sign in the montage was a birthday gift from Chuck Russell to his wife Emily Russell. In the Montage, you will find a picture of President Teddy Roosevelt dedicating the YMCA building that the sign once hung on.
The Montage concept happened during the period Penn Central Mall was under construction. “When the first wall was constructed, it became clear to Joe Crookham and Jeanie Bieri, who helped develop the mall, that something was needed to add interest to the large expanse of bricks.”
The Montage disappeared back in 1998 when the mall was not locally owned. The removal of the artwork, by the former owners, allowed them to make room for a merchant. Musco purchased the mall in 2010, and restoring the Montage collection was defined as a priority “so the community could continue to enjoy both its artistry and lessons of history.”
The restoration of the Montage took 700 hours over 7 months, with 275 hours being used for the placement of photos and artifacts.
Crookham, who has an appreciation and interest of history, said he hopes that the Montage will help to educate others by bringing education programs around it. For Crookham, history is important because, “It’s what we learn from it that’s critically important…There’s so many things you can learn how various things evolved. Why do we do things this way today.”
“It’s a beautiful piece of art and and it’s a shame to lose art of any kind to something. It needed to be restored. We had always anticipated that it would be, it was just the right time and right place to do it,” said Crookham.