LAKE WALES – In 2015, former Lake Wales Museum and Culture Center director Mimi Hardman was asked to involuntarily retire.
Four years later, during a Lake Wales City Commission meeting May 21, Mayor Eugene Fultz said it is now time to honor the Lake Wales historian for her time and effort establishing the museum.
“Ms. Hardman put so many years into the historical value of the community, Fultz said. “She should be recognized in a formidable manner.”
The city commission agreed and also approved the name of the facility being changed to Lake Wales History Museum.
Current director Jennifer D’hollander said she will soon be dedicating some space to honor Hardman. In city documents, D’hollander stated that she wants to rebrand the facility as a history museum instead of an art museum.
D’hollander has been busy writing grant applications of late. She recently applied for state art funding, Visit Central Florida funding, Florida Humanities Council funding and the Polk County Tourist Development Council funding.
Around $25,000 of the $200,000 total budget for the museum comes from City of Lake Wales funding. Ninety percent of the programming is free to the public according to grant documents.
Five speakers will lead events next year, including University of Florida professor Steve Noll, water expert Cynthia Barnett, art historian Gary Monroe, Florida Atlantic University professor Caren Neile and author Michael Tougias. Other speakers may be announced later.
Forty events are planned at the museum between July 2020 and June 2021, according to grant applications.
“Our attendance numbers reflect the audience rebuilding phase, and are expected to grow significantly as we bring more programs, events and exhibits back online in the near future,” D’hollander said.
Bartholomew Delcamp is curator at the museum, and 25 volunteers donated 1,056 hours in 2018. Last December, volunteers finished renovating the railroad caboose on property. The museum started out as a rail station early in city history.
The inside of the museum has been completely redone over the past few years and attendance has doubled since 2016 to around 11,000 visitors in 2018.
The City of Lake Wales owns around 12,000 historic items.