GROVE CITY – Dr. Thomas Armour has been wanting to properly catalog and preserve his father’s metalware business for quite a few years.
He’s now closer to achieving his goal thanks to a grant from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.
“It’s part of a larger effort,” he said of the commission’s work.
The $5,000 Historical and Archival Record Care grant is being awarded to the Grove City Area Historical Society and Museum, where Armour is a longtime member and volunteer.
The grant will help organize and archive the works of the late Arthur Armour, who is known for his handcrafted metalware.
“He had artistic talents... My father’s work is highly collectible,” said Armour, who submitted the grant application.
The grant requires matching funds. The society plans to use some existing money, and they’re hoping the public will help cover the rest.
“We’re looking for donors to help match the grant,” he said.
His father’s workshop along with tools, dies and other materials is still standing; it’s located off an alley near the historical society headquarters, 111 College Ave., Grove City.
The collection, which includes some items on permanent display at the museum, will be scanned, digitized and entered into the society’s PastPerfect database. That room is filled with trays, plates, serving pieces, coasters and more.
The public will be able to access the virtual archives from anywhere, and certain components will be projected onto a large screen at the museum.
“It will be like you’re in the shop,” Armour said.
This particular grant is meant to “improve the preservation and accessibility of historically significant records maintained by local governments, historical societies and academic institutions,” according to a news release issued by state Rep. Tedd Nesbit (R-8th, Grove City) and Sen. Michele Brooks (R-50th, Jamestown).
Armour is excited about the opportunity to work on preserving his father’s business, skill and talent. He’s glad the commission recognizes the importance of saving a “community treasure.”
The elder Armour, who passed away in 1998, got his start working for Wendell August Forge, which continues to produce metal giftware at its Springfield Township location. The local forge history room at the museum includes Wendell August items.
Arthur Armour ran his own business from 1933 to 1976 with his wife Marian working as the bookkeeper.
Thomas Armour has kept financial records and photos, plus sketches, artwork and metal dies that his father created.
“Then he freehand- chiseled these impressions into these dies,” he said.
Even with quality products, it was hard to stay in business. There was competition, and people soon lost interest in handmade metalware.
Armour continues to work hard in his father’s memory, making sure people don’t forget about the local business that kept many employed for a number of years and showcased unique craftsmanship.
He interviewed his father, several former employees, and folks who had connections to the business or family. Those audio and video recordings will be part of the museum’s new archives.
He also plans to record a new video in the workshop, and he’s hoping to start as soon as possible. The grant is expected to be finalized in May, he said.
It will fund equipment needed to digitize the collection, and cover the cost of student interns from Grove City College who will be helping with the project.
In the meantime, his fellow volunteers are getting ready to launch a new website for the historical society, and he’ll be getting the Arthur Armour collection ready.
“It’s being proud of your community,” he said.
The Grove City Area Historical Society and Museum, 111 College Ave., Grove City, is currently closed for the season. It will reopen April 21. For more information, visit the organization’s Facebook page or www.grovecityhistoricalsociety.org, where donations can be made through PayPal. Checks can be sent to: Grove City Area Historical Society and Museum, Box 764, Grove City, 16127.