Lights, Camera, Action!
History of Vevay's Musee de Venoge
is captured in 14 YouTube videos
The videos are available for viewing online
VEVAY, Ind. (July 2021) – History is meant to be shared. It is meant to have relevance to the present by relating incidents of the past. Those dusty stories of old, in many ways, mirror the realities of today.
When the past can be brought to life, modern individuals can see themselves and their struggles or triumphs reflected back. History then proves why it is the most important subject taught.
But what happens when something beyond your control occurs? What happens when your current method of teaching and sharing is curtailed, if not stopped altogether?
Musee de Venoge located on Hwy. 129 west of Vevay, Ind., found itself in just such a predicament.
Venoge Cottage had originally been constructed back in 1828. The first owners of the structure were Jacob and Charlotte Weaver and their family. They had immigrated to Switzerland County from Ulster County, N.Y., in 1813. The cottage would serve as their home until 1839.
Actors Amy Liebert and Brian Cushing are shown in a scene from the film "Election Day."
Over the years, like every structure, it went through changes until its usefulness was gone. It was slated for a burning exercise to train the local fire department.
At this point, enter Tom and Donna Weaver. They were fascinated by the rumor it was actually a log cabin. Knowing the building was slated for demolition, they decided to find the hidden logs by digging into the old walls. What they found was a hidden secret. That secret led to a 16-year quest to save the building. That was all back in 1995.
We fast forward to 2020, and Musee de Venoge has been restored. It is fulfilling its mission of sharing the story of the house with those visitors who would stop by. To accentuate the story, they added numerous living history venues throughout each year. These events would, through the use of costumed interpreters, bring the site to life and make the story of the Weaver family relatable to the modern day.
But then COVID-19 hit. Everything was shut down. No visitors could come. No events could be held. Now what? A museum dedicated to telling a story in a personal and relatable way can’t very well do so if no one can visit.
Donna Weaver, who had spent years trying to save the building, now had a new problem. If you can’t be open to the public, then how can you preserve this story? How do you pass it down? Perhaps most tragically, why even bother to go on?
She hit upon an effective method of solving those problems. In some ways, the solution was a reflection of those old Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney movies of old. You know the ones where Mickey says: “My dad has a barn.” Judy replies: “My mom can sew drapes.”
Actor Kyle Frank portrays a role in the video "She Went Bad" as part of the Musee de Venoge online film series.
Together, they enthusiastically exclaim: “Hey, let’s put on a show!” In the case of Musee de Venoge it was; “We have an old building that is fully restored. We have the talent and the clothing. Hey, let’s make some movies!” That’s exactly what they did.
Using her connections in the living history field, Weaver partnered with nationally recognized historians and started the camera’s rolling. The result is the Venoge YouTube Channel. Here one will find 14 different videos about the story of Venoge and its first occupants, Jacob and Charlotte Weaver.
Want to know what it took to save the house and bring it back to life? You can find out by watching the video titled “A small place I wrote you about.” Want a musical collection of songs and stories? Then watch “Songs of a Midwinters Night” or “The Old House.” Like to hear songs of the 19th century, but you want an adult beverage to complement your musical pairing? Then look forward to a new series called “Juleps, Songs and Jacob’s Punch,” which premieres on July 1.
Who were those first owners of the cottage? A new series was developed to explore that question, Called “Between the Lines.” The episodes do a deep dive to undercover the reality behind the incidents Jacob related back to his family in New York State. Episode one found out the real facts of a murder which took place in Vevay in 1817. Episode 2 shows how a frontier myth is actually a reality. Episode 3, premieres on July 9. That video is all about a feared and deadly epidemic which plagued not only Switzerland county, but the world. More videos in this series will follow.
Venoge is fortunate to have the letters written by Jacob. They date from 1813 until his death in 1847. They are a treasure trove of facts and stories. The letters also served as the basis for a full-length film called, “To Make a Begin-ning.” That film will have its premiere July 31 at the Hoosier Theatre in Vevay. A repeat showing is scheduled for Madison on Aug 6. All of those activities are free to the public.
Don’t think you can make those? Well, you can get a copy of the video from Venoge and enjoy it in your own home! Through the use of the YouTube Channel, Musee de Venoge can now reach people all over the world. With COVID restrictions lifted, live programming is returning to Venoge. They are currently open 1-4 p.m. Sundays.
You can visit Musee de Venoge in person or virtually. The web page is www.venoge.org. Here you can access many interesting facts along with direct links to their YouTube page and Facebook account. You’ll find how fascinating the past can be.
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