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C.F.’s Lysander Flagg Museum to close

October 24, 2013

The Lysander Flagg Museum at 209 Central St., part of the Central Falls Public Library campus, has been closed for over a year due to the high cost of maintaining the building. Historical items that were donated to the museum over the years are being offered for reclaiming by their original owner or a family member of the owner as trustees decide what to do with the collection. (Photo by Donna Kenny Kirwan)

CENTRAL FALLS—While it houses a lot of local history, the Lysander Flagg Museum and Cultural Center, located next to the Central Falls Public Library on Central Street, has been deemed too costly to operate.

The museum, begun about five years ago through the efforts of local resident Tom Shanahan, occupied the former G.A.R. Post No. 3, later named for Civil War Major Sullivan Ballou, at 209 Central St. The museum featured historical documents and other artifacts pertaining to the history of Central Falls and the Blackstone Valley, including maps, newspapers, photographs, and paintings. It boasted a collection of paintings by artist Lorenzo DeNevers and the Gilbert R. Merrill Textile Collection.

Now, with the stately, Victorian-style building shuttered and its future uncertain, the trustees of the museum are inviting anyone who donated a family heirloom or collectible item to come and take it back if they so wish.

The Board of Trustees of the Adams Library owns several buildings that make up the library campus on Central Street, and is entrusted with the building maintenance. Al Romanowicz, a member of the board, said the museum has been closed for over a year, and saw little to no activity in the two years prior to its closing.

With the main focus being to keep the cash-strapped Central Falls Public Library open as much as possible for the community, Romanowicz said the cost of paying for heat and electricity at the adjacent museum was found to be too much of a drain on resources. “The whole idea is, we can't operate the museum, and it doesn't bring in any revenue that helps support the library,” Romanowicz stated.

Romanowicz said the board is in the process of sorting through the items in the museum, and plans to have students from Roger Williams University come in and catalogue each piece that is considered to be of value and historical significance. He said that with the museum closed, the board has discussed having the historical items hung or displayed at other city buildings.

However, Romanowicz said the board also feels that anyone who donated a family heirloom and who wishes to take it back during this period should be allowed to do so. He said the board has set a date of Nov. 1, but offers some flexibility on this. Anyone wishing to claim an item is asked to call the Central Falls Public Library at (401) 727-7440.

Romanowicz said he knows there are items that were donated by residents who are now deceased, or who left things to the museum in their will. As such, he said a family member could reclaim a donated item as long as they can verify they are the owner or a family member of the owner. “For example, I had a woman come in and instantly point to photographs of her father and grandfather that her father had donated. It doesn't have to be the actual person who donated it,” he said.

Romanowicz said the board has an upcoming meeting planned with the Central Falls Library Board to discuss the museum and what to do with the rest of the items that are not reclaimed. He stressed that anything of historical significance will still be treated respectfully and likely be put on public display at other municipal buildings in the city.

Joel Pettit, director of the Central Falls Public Library, said he understands the board's intent considering that the museum is closed, but feels like the decision to have people reclaim the items might have been made too hastily. He said he wishes there had been more discussion with the library board, which is a separate entity from the Adams Trust, about what to do with the museum's contents.

Petitt said, for example, that there might be a way to get funding down the road for the museum display, or have it become a part of the library under a future expansion.

Romanowicz disagreed, saying the board intends to move slowly with the museum items, and will do a thorough job to catalogue everything that remains with the Roger Williams University students. “We expect this process will take us into the spring. But we wanted to give the people who wanted their donations back a chance to claim them,” he said.

Follow Donna Kirwan on Twitter@KirwanDonna


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