Recent discussions about downtown Willoughby center on its revitalization, eclectic business district, and most recently the fate of its lost centerpiece, a clock face. Missing from those discussions is the arrival five years ago of the Indian Museum of Lake County. Located just a few hundred yards off the main business district found on Erie Street, the museum has served as an educational hub for thirty years. The museum is located in building B of the Technical Center and is open seven days a week. From humble beginnings at Lake Erie College in Painesville, the museum which opened in 1980, now preserves over 27,000 artifacts. Artifacts range from prehistoric to the Native American crafts from 1800 to the present. The Indian Museum is an experience that serves all age groups and levels of interest.
On the day I stopped by, Director Ann Dewald and her volunteer staff were sharing their experiences with a group of preschoolers. Arrows from the Paleo era and Plano complex were available for viewing. The Fairport Collection of the Cat Indians and Celts are depicted in detail. Pipes, Native American attire, and other archeological finds were there to view in detail. The museum library contains over 1,000 books and periodicals to be used by any community learner.
The heart of the museum's collection centers around three experiences. The Whittlesey Culture (900 AD to 1600 AD ) are examined in detail. These people occupied areas of Ashtabula, Geauga, and Lake Counties. They were the last group of Indians to live in this area before the arrival of the Europeans. Artifacts found during a 1973 dig at the Reeve Village Site ( Eastlake Middle School ) of 1929 comprise another focal point of the museum assets. Finally, student workshops allow hands-on experiences with dig basics, corn grinding and interactions with Native American speakers.
The museum's goals have been to preserve materials important to the Native American history of NE Ohio, all of Ohio and to exhibit art and crafts of today's Native Americans throughout the North American Continent. Willoughby's Hidden Gem stands this test of time.