Barbara Havekost, a Greenbelt resident and one of the founders of the Greenbelt Museum, marveled at the fact that the museum soon will be celebrating its 25th anniversary.
“We didn’t know if we could stay open in the beginning,” she said, recalling the Oct. 19, 1987, opening. “We didn’t know if people would come again once they visited. But it’s been successful beyond our wildest expectations.”
Havekost explained that the mission of the museum, 10B Crescent Road, always has been to preserve the history of the New Deal era from 1935 to 1945. Greenbelt was created during the New Deal, a set of economic principles adopted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt that included a federal undertaking in planned community design.
“There are artifacts and stories that needed to be told,” she said. “This is a living museum.”
To celebrate, the museum’s major fundraising effort this year will be a prohibition-themed event from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. Sept. 27 at the Greenbelt Arts Center. The fundraiser, entitled “The Rexford Review: A Post-Prohibition Evening,” will include a burlesque performance and silent auction.
“We were inspired by the 1930s and wanted to create a supper club from that period,” said Lauren Silberman, an organizer and member of Friends of the Greenbelt Museum.
Megan Searing Young, director of the museum, said the city’s history is important to preserve because it not only is part of a local story of suburban development but part of a national effort during the Great Depression.
“It’s truly a living legacy of the New Deal,” she said.
Young said that during the past 25 years, the museum’s collection has grown to include about 2,000 items. She said the museum also has evolved in that it does more programming than it did when it first opened. The museum now offers four lectures per year, hosts rotating exhibitions in the Greenbelt Community Center, offers walking tours of the city, and organizes a holiday open house.
“We’ve tried to be responsive to what the community is looking for,” she said.
The museum , which is open from 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays and by appointment, shows visitors what a house from the New Deal era looked like and the objects it would contain. Items on display included Fiesta ware, a popular dinnerware line in the 1930s, a refrigerator from the early 1940s, children’s toys and cookbooks from the era. Admission to the museum is $3.
Young said all items at the museum have been donated by Greenbelt residents. She estimated 4,000 visitors come to the museum each year.
The museum is run by a dedicated team of between 25 and 30 volunteers, Young said. She said the museum building is owned by the city but operated and funded by the Friends of Greenbelt Museum nonprofit organization. In addition to Young, who is a city employee, the museum has a part-time education and volunteer coordinator whose position is paid through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and by the Friends of Greenbelt.
Fundraiser tickets can be purchased for $25 online at www.greenbeltmuseum.org. Proceeds go to support the Friends of the Greenbelt Museum.