I’ve driven past Wooster, Ohio, many times but never into its downtown area. It is into this I went while seeking out the Wayne County Historical Society of Ohio (WCHSO), and here I discovered a wonderland of locally owned restaurants, stores, and even a farmer’s market. The was, for example, an establishment that sells nothing but Rubbermaid products from which I bought a generous amount of containers because they are getting harder and harder to find in big box stores such as Target.
Had I been aware that Wooster is home to the College of Wooster, a liberal arts school, I would’ve have come to this city much sooner. Liberal arts colleges tend to attract creative people and have a habit producing culture otherwise absent from the typically
conservative small towns of Ohio. Wooster hosts, for example, an all day jazz festival which I missed by a week. A real pity because finding live jazz in Ohio is no easy thing, and a daylong festival unheard of.
For the past forty years the College of Wooster has put on the Ohio Light Opera, a theatrical group that mainly performs musicals. While I rarely go to stage shows, those I’ve seen were done by amateurs whom one can hardly expect to come close to producing the quality you would see in professional plays. Yet the Ohio Light Opera has reached that level. Its productions could easily appear on Broadway or the West End in London. While I haven’t seen a performance, I have gazed upon the costumes, posters, and photos of the shows, which is plenty to back up this assertion. Currently on display at the WCHSO are numerous costumes from the show’s past that look as if they belong on the set of a Hollywood movie. Impressive is not strong enough a word to describe them.
Having visited many museums run by small historical societies, I’ve found that most are usually interesting but they never obtain the quality one would see at a large museum with an annual budget in the millions. Small museums also tend to display whatever bric-a-brac they’ve accumulated over the years whether these artifacts are worthy of showing the public or not. Ancient trash dug up by archeologists might yield useful information about the past, but to the casual museum attendee they appear to be what they really are: trash. Because the WCHSO has an annual budget of just $30,000 with one paid employee who works six hours a week, you might think it would contain a lot of stuff not up to par with something that, say, the British Museum would put into a display case. You would be wrong.
The quality and quantity of objects that the WCHSO possesses is staggering. It has, for example, a taxidermy collection that would make the curator of the American Museum of Natural History in New