If you have frequented Wilmington, Ohio, you’ve seen it probably thousands of times. You know – that big old white house on the corner of East Locust and N. Lincoln Streets in Wilmington. Yes, it does have a name. Whether Rombach Place Museum, the Clinton County Historical Society or the Clinton County History Center, it’s all one-in-the-same. So you say, okay now what? Doesn’t sound too exciting? Think again! History shapes every one of us, the same way it shapes the community in which we live.
Rombach Place Museum is the resting place for much of Clinton County’s history, rich in the simplicity of Quaker heritage, garnished by the influences of distinguished individuals such as General James W. Denver, who had his home in the same dwelling where the museum now resides. Some people are immediately disenchanted when someone mentions a museum, but Rombach Place truly has something for everyone.
Special exhibits allow you to focus on particular topics. For example, right now they are featuring an exhibit on photography and how it has progressed through time. “Photography: Our History Exposed” reflects over 100 years of photography in Clinton County. The exhibit includes Daguerreotypes from the 1840s, ‘tintypes’ of the Civil War era, and a stereoscope and ‘views’ of the Victorian era. Also on display are cameras from the 1880s thru the 1980s; and photographic and darkroom equipment from the studio of Clinton County photographer Clarke Nagley (1887 – 1972). If you don’t know anything about what was just described, even better, this is your opportunity to learn.
Also on display is a special exhibit entitled “Cabinets of Curiosity: The Weird and the Wonderful.” The earliest museums in the United States were private collections of curiosities and oddments, often the property of wealthy gentlemen. Collections included objects from nature, history, and science. Some included preserved animals and serpents, real and imagined. These collections were called “cabinets of curiosities” or “cabinets of wonder.” In Germany you might visit a Kunstkammer (art room) or a Wunderkammer (wonder room). The focus of this exhibit is the oddities in the Museum’s collection, some weird and some wonderful. Among the seventy-five items on display are jewelry and wreaths made of human hair, a clock-work creeping baby doll patented in 1871, an 1873 commercial coffee mill and a clock reel. Would you believe a real human skull? They have that too!
Items regularly on display include artifacts of the Native American influence in the area, a folding bathtub, a tree trunk embedded with cannonballs, historic textiles, furniture and glassware and the list goes on and on. Perhaps you are familiar with Carl Moon, a Wilmington native who was one of the first to photograph Native American Indians in their own environment. The museum provides a pathway to his photographic insight.
Quaker influence was an integral part of shaping the county’s heritage and that is very apparent when you visit the museum. Whether it’s a quilt made in 1842 by Quaker women, or the beautiful animal sculptures created by internationally known Quaker painter and sculptor, Eli Harvey, the Quaker’s role is undeniable. If you are interested in searching your Clinton County lineage, there is also a Geneology Library at the Center which houses a wealth of family histories. Rombach Place is much more than a museum, it is tangible evidence of the people who came before us and made this a great place to live. Looking back in time can be a guiding light to our future. The Clinton County History Center is located at 149 E. Locust St., Wilmington. Hours for touring are Wednesday through Friday, 1 pm to 4:30 pm. The cost for admission is $5 per person for non-members of the Clinton County Historical Society.