When is the last time you visited the Venango Museum? For many, it has been since going on a field trip in elementary school. We encourage you to stop in soon, and we’re excited to share about what’s happening there from Executive Director Brandon Boocks.
Tell us about the Venango Museum.
We are located on Oil City’s North Side in a Beaux-Arts architectural-styled building—originally a post office in 1905 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. We collect, preserve, and exhibit artifacts and related materials relevant to the interests of Venango County residents and visitors. We currently have two exhibits. Our permanent exhibit called Oil: Black Gold or Black Magic? details how oil has made fortunes and transformed our everyday lives, global economics, politics, and the environment. We also have an exhibit area that is changed at least once a year. The current exhibit is called Our Pennzoil Story and details history of the Pennzoil Company’s roots in Venango County.
What is your role there?
I manage all aspects of the Museum. I oversee daily operations including administration duties, fundraising, and more. I work with the public on a daily basis, giving tours of exhibits and recommending other local spots for visitors to stop. I plan and host community events such as concerts, children’s programming, workshops, and tours of other historic sites. I oversee and grow our collection, which consists of items and materials related to Venango County as well as the early oil industry. I also oversee the development of the temporary exhibits.
What is your favorite part about working for the Museum?
The storytelling aspect has always been my favorite part. I enjoy hearing the many stories that make up the history of our region and shape who we are today. I also never know who is going to come through our doors and the stories they’ll tell. Whether it be a tourist, a visitor wanting to donate or loan items to our collection, or a resident reminiscing—they all have a story to tell.
What would surprise people about the Venango Museum?
Our collection contains strange and unexpected items that contribute to the story of our history. Kept in an offsite location is a letter from Abraham Lincoln, thanking a resident for her donation to Philadelphia Hospitals to aid in caring for sick and wounded Union soldiers in 1865. Currently on display is a recast of President Grant’s death mask, a likeness of his face made by taking a mold of his corpse to be used for creation of portraits. Grant visited the Oil Region during his presidency to learn the potential impact of the oil boom on the United States.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
The Museum has existed in Venango County for 61 years. We are entirely supported by our community— residents bringing families and friends to visit, or people supporting our events and programs—and all of it is vital and helps to keep the Museum alive.
Learn more about the Museum at venangomuseum.org.
This article was published in the Future Leaders & Entrepreneurs Exchange’s (FLEX) July 2022 edition of the FLEX Your Ideas (FYI) Newsletter.