Slate Museum 1

Jamie Munks - jmunks@poststar.com Slate Valley Museum director Kate Weller brings her daughter, Ella Weller-Zembo, 3, to visit Santa Claus at an old-fashioned holiday event at the museum on Sunday. The Santa costume is fashioned after a political cartoon that portrayed Santa as a unionist during the Civil War. The open house was one of the museum's first big events since it flooded during Tropical Storm Irene earlier this year.

Jamie Munks

GRANVILLE -- Roughly three and a half months after it was underwater, the Slate Valley Museum has few scars to show from Tropical Storm Irene.

On Sunday, the museum held an open house event with the nearby Pember Library and Museum that centered on 19th-century holiday celebrations and the Civil War. But the flood wasn’t far from Director Kate Weller’s mind.

"There were 5 inches of water inside the building, extensive damage to the floor, and the walls were probably hit the hardest," Weller said Sunday of the storm’s remnants. "Now we’re waiting for the more cosmetic work to be done."

People were able to get inside the building within about 12 hours of the storm, and they found silt covering almost everything. But many of the museum’s displays are elevated enough so not everything was damaged, Weller said.

A mark from Irene is apparent in one room of the exhibition space, where a gap along the bottom of the walls remains open; wooden beams and insulation can be seen through a plastic covering. In addition to the walls, Weller is also trying to secure grant funding to redo the landscaping on the property, which was ravaged during the storm, she said.

Some of the museum’s archives also got wet, and now an archivist is controlling the drying process and determining what can be done for each of the pieces.

Weller estimates there was about $50,000 in flooding damages. The museum received several emergency grants and donations from the community, including a $1,000 grant from the New York Council of the Humanities.

The museum applied for Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance through the village of Granville, and Weller expects to hear sometime in 2012 if an award will come through.

The museum re-opened the first week in October after a month-long closure, which was costly for the museum. September is usually a busy month, with an average of 450 visitors. Fixing issues stemming from the flood also took staff members away from their normal duties, Weller said.

On Sunday, during the annual holiday open house, visitors learned the backstory to many ongoing holiday traditions. The event focused on the Civil War era, featuring an Abraham Lincoln reenactor who took questions about his life, the war and slavery at both the Slate Valley Museum and the Pember Library and Museum.

It was during the Civil War era when Christmas went through a transformation, Weller said.

"That time really turned Christmas from a boisterous, adult holiday with a lot drinking to a more family-oriented time with Santa and a tree," Weller said.

She gave a reading of "‘Twas the Night Before Christmas," and Santa Claus visited both museums dressed in a patriotic and festive uniform made by Pat Wesner, executive director of the Pember Library and Museum.

Santa’s pants had red-and-white stripes and his coat and hat were blue with white stars. It’s a take on a Thomas Nast illustration, considered to be one of the first political cartoons.

The costume took about 30 hours to complete; the trim was made of cotton and mink, both of which would have been used during the 19th century, she said.

This was the first year the two museums held the event together with the same theme. People walked between the two across a foot bridge that extends over the same river that flowed through the Slate Valley Museum this summer.

"These are the types of events we don’t want to cancel," Weller said of the holiday gathering. "We’re really trying to be open and available to the public."

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