MIFFLINTOWN - The Juniata County Historical Society held the first of many community meetings Wednesday night to discuss possible options regarding the Tuscarora Museum should the state decide to give the property to the society.
"Technically the state hasn't offered the building to us yet, but we want to be prepared should that happen," said Audrey Sizelove, president of the Juniata County Historical Society. "We plan to have several meetings to get a reading on what the community wants to do with the building."
The Tuscarora Academy currently acts as the society's historical museum, but is owned by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, a state agency, meaning the state pays for all exterior repairs and maintenance.
The PHMC and the Juniata County Historical Society plan to meet on Oct. 22 to discuss details further.
"That the Tuscarora Museum is an important part of Juniata County's history and deserves to be preserved is not a question," Sizelove said. "The question is, can the funds be raised in order to do so?"
If the historical society accepts the house, it would cost roughly $500,000 to complete a number of much needed repairs as well as to maintain the property over time. That's in addition to the $20,000 it costs for the historical society to operate in an average year, which includes the cost of maintaining four properties and three monuments, Sizelove said.
For the museum to operate at full capacity under society ownership, the asbestos would need to be removed, the roof replaced and new heaters purchased and installed. The building would also need to be renovated to meet current fire safety and handicap standards.
"The academy has been associated with the society for a long time and is one of the icons of Juniata County," Sizelove said. "But we want to present all the facts so people truly understand what a dilemma this is."
A number of suggestions were given at the meeting by members of the historical society including: selling some of the society's properties to reduce cost; spend the money on a different building with a more accessible location; build a modernized replica of the academy which can combine the museum and archives; take the academy, but make it a historical property without indoor access.
The PHMC is expected to offer the property to the historical society within this fiscal year, Sizelove said.
The next community meeting will be held at 3 p.m. on Oct. 27 at the Lower Tuscarora Presbyterian Church, in Academia. For additional information, contact the Juniata County Historical Society at 436-5152 or firstname.lastname@example.org.