By Janie McKirgan
The Jimmy Stewart Museum had big plans for our 25th Anniversary Celebration but you know what they say about best laid plans. We had all sorts of exciting things in the works. There was to be a ribbon cutting/grand opening for the newly updated museum, a special reception for members and donors, a film festival, special guests, WWII reenactors, speakers, birthday cake, and much more! All of this was to be intertwined with our local Jazz & Arts Festival downtown. Then COVID-19 hit! It hit hard! All businesses were ordered closed on March 17th by order of our governor. As time went by, we soon realized that the 25th Anniversary of our museum was going to look much different if we were to have one at all. We started canceling guests, speakers, etc., and getting the word out by the beginning of May. There would be no in-person celebration and our doors were not allowed to be open until, at best, sometime in June.
The silver lining in the shut down was that it gave us extra time to “fine-tune” our newly updated exhibits and to overhaul our website. That was a blessing of sorts. But we were still tasked with our silver anniversary. How do we honor it? What could we do that didn’t involve the museum being open? How could we give Jimmy Stewart fans a little something to lift their spirits during the quarantine? The only answer was social media. We can reach Jimmy Stewart’s fans online and through our Facebook page.
Now the question was what to post? How can we make it a special? How can we make it different? That answer lied with some very good friends of the museum. We decided to ask some special friends and local dignitaries to create videos in honor of our 25th Anniversary. Many had memories of Jimmy; each was unique and all were congratulatory of our museum’s milestone.
The first to answer the call was our great friend Rich Little. Rich Little’s video was something only Rich could do. He “interviewed” Jimmy Stewart himself going back and forth with a question and answer session. Funny and touching, it was a great way to kick off the online celebration! Next came a wonderful video from Jimmy’s daughter Kelly Harcourt-Stewart. She recalled memories about her famous father and even had his Oscar make an appearance. Her message was heartfelt and endearing. The most popular video posted was from none other than Zuzu herself, Karolyn Grimes from It’s A Wonderful Life! She shared warm memories of working with Jimmy Stewart on the famous classic holiday film. What a treat that was! Bill Mumy sent us a lovely video to post as well. He was in Dear Brigitte with Jimmy Stewart back in 1965. You may also remember him as Will Robinson from Lost in Space on TV. He relived some great memories of working with Jimmy. What a joy to share these with everyone!
Locally, Pittsburgh news anchor, Mike Clark sent us a terrific video about his first visit to the museum. Senator Joe Pittman, Representative Jim Struzzi, an Air Force chaplain, representatives from The Jimmy Stewart Airport, the Indiana County Tourist Bureau and Downtown Indiana helped give us a local spin with their warm wishes. Even a young fan from Pittsburgh saw what we were posting on Facebook and sent us his own homemade video complete with a bell ringing at the end! What a wonderful online celebration it was! If you haven’t seen them, they are still available for viewing on The Jimmy Stewart Museum Facebook page under videos.
So, we did the best celebration we could in the situation we were in. We hope that it brought some much-needed light and levity during the quarantine.
Now we are able to open the museum doors to visitors once again. Please know that we are doing all we can to help keep you safe during your time at the museum. The museum is requiring masks for all visitors and staff and if you didn’t bring one with you, we have extras on hand. We direct all visitors to follow the same direction in touring the galleries to limit face to face interactions. We also encourage social distancing from other visitor groups and we have plenty of space to spread out among the exhibits. We have blocked off every other row in our movie theater so that groups may sit at least 6 feet apart. At maximum, the theater will only be at 50% capacity until further notice. We have plenty of hand sanitizer available for all guests and hand washing stations in the restrooms. We have a plexi-glass divider in our store between the cash register and our guests and our admission booth is behind a glass window.
Thanks for celebrating our 25th Anniversary online with us during the pandemic. Here’s hoping you can come and visit us in person sometime soon for a safe and wonderful experience! We might have to plan a 25th Anniversary “re-do” in May of 2021!