History of the Collection
Early in the 20th century, E. M. Violette, professor of
history at the First District Normal School, as we were then known, saw
a need for a museum of historical material. With the aid of the school's
historical society, which he sponsored, he collected artifacts both for
use in the classroom and to be displayed in an exhibit hall on the
second floor of Baldwin Hall.
Dr. J. L. Kingsbury assumed care of the collection when Mr. Violette
left on 1923. The next January, a quirk of fate saved the artifacts when
they were moved to the new Kirk Auditorium building a mere six
fire destroyed Baldwin and Library Halls. The collection was moved
to Pickler Memorial Library when it was completed in 1925 and then, in
the early 1930s, was put into storage so the museum rooms could be used
for classroom space.
Though the artifacts were packed away, faculty members who had been
students of both Mr. Violette and Dr. Kingsbury kept interest and
awareness of the Museum alive. One of them, Dr. Walter H. Ryle, took
steps to revitalize the museum when he became President in 1937.
collection was officially named The E. M. Violette Museum by resolution
of the Board of Regents on April 23, 1940. It was reopened, with
appropriate ceremony, in rooms designed for it in the basement of the
new John R. Kirk Memorial on June 4, 1943. This museum exhibit
area remained operational until the Fall of 2003, when environmental
concerns required that the collections be moved to a more appropriate
location to ensure their preservation.