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CityScene: Kelton House grant sustains and offers new programs


Kelton House grant sustains and offers new programs

After a $10,000 grant, the museum is better than ever

Who could have thought that residents from our city played a key role in fighting slavery? Kelton House Museum & Garden recounts the story of Fernando and Sophia Kelton, who risked everything to deliver freedom to runaway slaves. Since 1976, the museum’s lively narration of local heroes’ exploits against slavery has educated adults and students alike.

Its mission continues, as it has recently received a $10,000 grant from the Reinberger Foundation to bolster its educational programs.

“We’re honored to receive this grant from the Reinberger Foundation,” says Museum Director Georgeanne Reuter. “The grant will allow the museum to continue to present programs that educate the community about 19th-century life, including the Civil War.”

The funding is significant for the museum’s ability to offer the Underground Railroad program for children.

“Our nominal charge for the program is much less than the actual costs to deliver the program,” says Reuter. “We basically could not afford to offer the program without funding from generous foundations and donors.”

The Underground Railroad Learning Station is the museum’s flagship program and hosts thousands of children each year. It is a three-part tour for children, scheduled in groups – usually comprised of schools, scouts or homeschool students.

For regular visits, the Keltons’ residence is displayed with its vast collection of furniture, paintings, china, crystal, silver and music boxes. A Victorian-inspired garden awaits in the back.

More importantly, attendees get to shadow Fernando and Sophia Kelton and vicariously experience their contributions to the fight against slavery. Assist the family as they clandestinely ferry slaves to Canada and Mexico on the Underground Railroad. Learn the secrets behind the house as it provides refuge to hundreds of freedom seekers as an inconspicuous stop in this network of secret pathways. Join in with bygone Oberlin citizens as they push back against federal marshals and slave catchers trying to reclaim a slave. Kelton House Museum & Garden’s trained tour guides ensure a memorable depiction of these heritage moments.

Those who have already walked in the Keltons’ footsteps may find interest in the museum’s special events. The Reinberger fund allows the museum to offer a historic lecture in Ten Thousand Feet for Freedom: Ohio’s First Women’s Suffrage Parade on July 21. The program recounts the genesis of the most impressive demonstration for woman suffrage the state has ever seen.

The museum is a service of the Junior League of Columbus, which is a non-profit organization empowering women as agents of change in the community. It refurbished the ancestral house and turned it into a garden museum in 1976. The organization also provides most of the programs offered in the Museum and has been funding it since 2000.