History finds a new home

Theresa Montgomery

Historical Society relocated

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

This famous quote seems oddly out of place in this setting at 234 S. Water Street.

But it is on a pamphlet in the Kent Historical Society.

Guy Pernetti, executive director is settling the historical society’s museum into its new location.

It reopened on Water Street last September after three decades above the Pufferbelly Restaurant in the old Erie Railroad depot, which the historical society still owns.

Pernetti is creating what will become a slice-of-life experience of history for schoolchildren on the second floor of the Historical Society’s museum.

As he walks through the museum, he describes plans for a train display.

In another room, dozens of perfectly preserved dresses of early Kent residents fill walls, chairs and stands.

Pernetti is also helping to organize Kent’s 2006 bicentennial celebration as chairman of the committee organizing events for the year ahead.

“A lot of people are interested in Kent history,” he said. “There is a very strong cadre of descendants of historic [local] people.”

Pernetti said the initial impetus for the 1971 formation of the Kent Historical Society was to protect the historic depot from being torn down.

“It actually started the historical society,” Pernetti said. “It’s one of our main buildings in town. A group of people got together to preserve the building and began a momentum we’re carrying through now.”

Sandra Halem, board president of the Kent Historical Society, was part of that movement.

“At that point, the depot was in terrible disrepair. It was pretty sad,” Halem said. “If you look at it now, it’s hard to remember.”

Area businesses responded, assisting the historical society’s efforts.

“We worked in partnership,” Halem said.

The saving and restoration of the depot became an engine for economic restoration to the area. Bricks were installed to slow down traffic, light posts installed and other improvements made, Halem said.

“In return, we felt the city of Kent had a resource for its future,” she said.

Their efforts involve all areas of local history, Halem said. One of the projects currently planned is the “I remember” project of collecting and recording oral histories from local residents.

“The historical society does not take a political view about events,” she said. “We preserve history objectively so that people can be informed and make decisions. Any group that has come has had a great story.”

Pernetti has a history of working with museum displays.

He is an accomplished musician with a master’s degree in educational technology from Kent State, and he has set up a number of interactive displays from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to the Smithsonian Institution.

Contact features correspondent Theresa Montgomery at [email protected].