Historical museum walks people through history

The Lycoming County Historical Museum is a treasure full of local history waiting to be discovered. Located at 858 W 4th St., the museum transports visitors back to the era where Native Americans were in the local area, and takes them through history to modern time.

The museum was first organized by the historical society, that was founded in 1907 by a group of people that were interested in local history. They originally met at the James V. Brown Library or at the Scottish Rite auditorium to host meetings and to talk about archeology and local history.

In 1939 the historical society bought a lumber barren mansion for $5,000. In 1941 the historical society opened the original museum for the public.

Tragedy struck the museum in 1960. A fire broke out that destroyed the building. The museum lost about 20% of the collection and part of the original records were destroyed.

The historical society made the decision to rebuild on the site, and it opened the current museum in 1966.

The museum takes visitors on not only a tour of a museum, but a tour of the local area’s history through its permanent exhibits. The museum starts with Native American culture and occupation, and then moves to the years of the Frontier settlement. From there visitors are shown how Williamsport became the county’s seed, and then move on towards learning about the different communities that developed in the 1830s and 1840s during the days of the canal system. Then they will see the lumber capital of the world exhibit and see how people’s lives in Williamsport changed during this time in the 1870s. Visitors will then work their way through the museum untill they are back in modern time.

The pride and joy of the museum would have to be its amazing toy train collection. The collection was donated by a man who started collecting toy trains as a teenager and collected them his whole life. The museum has a whole room used to display over 300 toy trains that are part of the collection. Some of the trains are in glass cases, but they also have some of the trains set up on tracks with a miniature town. With a push of the button, visitors can make the town come to life. Different types of trains will run on the tracks and a circus will come to life with music and the rides will be activate. The train collection is sure to amaze people of all ages.

“Kids from ages two through 95 come to play with the toy trains,” Director of the Lycoming County Historical Museum, Gary Parks, said.

The museum has about 15,000 visitors each year, that come from all over the country and world. The busiest time of year is during the summer months and in the Fall when the “leaf peepers” come to the area to view leaves when they change colors.

“We have bus tours, school groups, senior citizen groups coming, and every year we have a number of people that have said “I’ve lived here all my life and have never been here, and they are pleasantly surprised,” said Parks.