By Sandy Arpen

The Mandarin Museum & Historical Society is winding up a five-year effort to expand and renovate the Mandarin Museum building at Walter Jones Historical Park. After years of fundraising and receiving generous private donations as well as a facilities matching grant from the Department of State, Division of Arts and Culture, the building of the structures actually began this summer. Despite delays related to the pandemic, permits and rainy weather, R.G. White Construction has been working diligently to build the new exhibit hall and expand the archive room. A completely new air conditioning system is also being installed for the entire building.

The original hope was to have this project completed by Dec. 4 for Winter Celebration. That was an optimistic goal — and Winter Celebration has been canceled for 2021. The revised goal is to have a Grand Reopening event in late Spring 2022; however, it will be worth the wait, as the newly built and completely revised museum will include: a new and dedicated exhibit hall for the “Maple Leaf” story (National Historic Landmark Civil War shipwreck); a brand new “Untold Stories of Black Mandarin” exhibit; a refreshed Harriet Beecher Stowe area; a dedicated space related to the steamships that frequented Mandarin’s docks; a new Mandarin Timeline; and smaller exhibits that include the River, the Timuquans, early settlement, the Seminole Wars, Pvt. Marion Losco, historic homes, schools, churches and businesses, 20th century happenings, and a display titled “What happened to rural Mandarin.” Even the bathrooms in the museum will be beautified with event posters from the past.

Behind the scenes, we are very grateful to be doubling the size of the Susan Ford Archive Room. This room contains the museum’s vast collection of photographs, documents, paintings, pottery and other objects that have been donated to the museum over the years. When the building was built in 2004, the collection was quite small in comparison to today. Now we have four volunteers on an archive team who manage all of it, and they will finally have a room to work in and the ability to store everything in a better way.

We ask everyone to be patient. This is a huge undertaking for an organization that is essentially managed by volunteers. Everyone has been working so hard to bring this new Mandarin Museum to life and it will be a special gift to the entire community. We look forward to a celebration of completion and reopening. Stay tuned.

Sandy Arpen is a volunteer with the Mandarin Museum & Historical Society. Visit for more information about Mandarin’s history and Mandarin Museum & Historical Society information.

Photo courtesy Sandy Arpen
Board President Sandy Arpen celebrating the first sign of walls.

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