People often ask me where I work, so I tell them. The response is usually: “Wrather Museum? There’s a museum on campus?”
I maintain the oldest building on campus and half of the time no one even knows it exists. It’s pretty unbelievable considering the events I have assisted in scheduling for the past fiscal year.
This year, Wrather Musuem has hosted The Vagina Monologues, the Provost and Dean’s Debate, (respectively) the Jackson Purchase Dance Company, a kindergarten graduation, “Crazy in Love,” Drug Court, the Town and Gown Breakfast, the Roots Concert put on by the history department and the Jazz Journey concert to commemorate the Smithsonian Exhibit the museum housed for 48 days.
In those days, our records indicate that 3,979 people came through specifically for the exhibit, only to realize there are eight other main exhibits and numerous other uses for the museum.
It’s also worth mentioning that Wrather is the location of the communications lecture twice a week, and those classes have between 132-150 students.
Step teams book the stage to practice for the step show. Sororities have used the auditorium for rush events. A wedding has taken place on the stage. I set up folding chairs in one of the exhibit rooms for a loan counseling event for the community. A member of Alpha Tau Omega has had food delivered to the steps at 1 a.m. because Wrather is considered on-campus delivery but their fraternity house is not. I wish I were kidding.
And so, at the disposal of the entire student body is a multi-level, cultural and useful wonder that is severely underappreciated. I say this as a student worker who takes calls, books events, sets up the exhibit, and plays the part of a custodian five days a week.
I am supremely grateful for the chance to work in such a unique environment that includes constant contact with people, but it is also my experience that some do not understand how difficult it is to maintain an aging building.
The constant use of the auditorium has been apparent for some time now, yet little has been done to renovate. Original seating and carpet are still present, as well as the stage and the stage curtain—which is one event away from disintegrating if you ask me.
Every day I go through row by row to pick up the paper, gum, pencils and other foodstuffs that careless students and audience members leave behind. It’s not that I am not completely enamored with the Doritos some people have left behind, it’s that there are at least eight trashcans I empty each day that are far more suitable than the floor.
If you direct your attention to the ceiling in the auditorium, you will find that the plaster is falling off into the balcony gun exhibit. If you twiddle with the light switches in the Hal Riddle Hollywood Memorabilia Room, you will notice that these lights do not turn on without the aid of pliers. The exhibit rooms are hot, you say? I have no control over that.
One of my favorite complaints involved the speed of the elevator. There was an event in which I was chastised for the elevator doors closing slowly. Fear not, for the elevator is inspected quite frequently, but like it or not it is the oldest elevator on campus and it is not going to go at warp speed.
With the demolition of Ordway just around the corner, I want to stress how important it is to preserve Wrather. It is the site of numerous events and I am usually pretty busy trying to keep the dust bunnies at bay, yet I think it is sometimes just thought of as “that one building behind the president’s house.”
It is historic and used for more than most of you might think, and it is also open during the summer months.
I’ll be there May through August – come in and let me show you why Wrather matters.