Source: Sherman Publications

Teacher wants museum to stay in bank bldg.

by CJ Carnacchio

May 25, 2011

Daniel Axford second-grade teacher Theresa Giberson is truly passionate about education, her students and convincing Oxford Village to keep the Northeast Oakland Historical Museum right where it is.

“I just hope they understand the significance and importance of this building,” she said.

Giberson indicated that she and some of her fellow second-grade teachers at DA are opposed to the possibility of the village attempting to sell the museum building (1 N. Washington St.) to a private party in order to generate additional revenue for the cash-strapped municipality.

“We want to take action because we think it’s an important part of history,” she said. “It’s not just about money; it’s about keeping our heritage. Some things just need to stay the same.”

The village council is considering asking voters for permission to sell the museum building. Voter permission is required by charter to sell any village property worth more than $17,180.

Council has not yet decided whether to put the museum property on the ballot.

According to village Manager Joe Young, he’s spoken with someone who’s interested in purchasing the building, which he estimated is worth between $150,000 and $250,000.

But Giberson believes the museum building is more important than dollars.

“There are things that have to go when the economy is slow, but there are also things that always have to stay – that always have to be a part of a community,” she said.

Giberson plans to have her class write a letter to the village council explaining how they feel about the museum and urging officials to keep it inside the former Oxford Savings Bank building.

“I have a couple kids that are very persuasive, so I might have them write individual letters, too,” she said.

The museum’s been located in the building since 1972, when the bank deeded the property over to the village. Prior to that, the building housed the bank from 1922-66 and before that, it was home to a saloon and a Detroit United Railway ticket office.

“What a perfect place to have a museum,” Giberson said. “It’s been so many different things. You can see the places where it has changed and you can actually point it out to the kids. Every time we come in, it kind of takes you back (in time).”

Every year, hundreds of Oxford second-graders and fourth-graders visit the museum on field trips.

“Half of the presentation they give our kids is about this building,” Giberson said. “This building is half the museum. It just wouldn’t be the same anywhere else. (The students) talk a lot about the building because it holds so much of the history. They’re very interested in what this building was and how it has changed.”

During their field trips, the kids learn lessons in history, economics, scarcity and how things change over time.

“I think it’s important kids see how things looked before they were here or I was here or you were here,” Giberson said. “The kids absolutely love it. They love seeing what kind of toys kids used to play with. They love the vault. They love hearing about the Lone Ranger.”

Each trip teaches something new, even to those who have been visiting the museum year after year. “Every single time I come, I see something different. I notice different things,” Giberson said.

Having a museum within walking distance of the school fits right in with the district’s efforts to make students more environmentally-conscious citizens, according to Giberson.

“It’s so easy for us to walk here,” she said. “We don’t have to get a bus, so we’re not wasting gas.”

Giberson believes selling the building and having a private party turn it into a business would take away its “historical value.”

“It’s a very unique building,” she said. “To change it, I think, would be devastating because there are things (such as the original tile flooring) here that you can no longer purchase.”

In Giberson’s opinion, in order to bring the building up to code for the operation of a business, “somebody would probably have to rip out everything that’s in here, which would be just devastating,” she said. “You can’t remake this. You can’t rebuild this.”

Giberson is all for keeping the downtown economically viable, but she believes that can be accomplished without moving the museum.

“There are so many buildings in Oxford that have nothing in them,” she said. “Let’s fill those up first and let’s keep our heritage.”