Saturday, April 07, 2001

Fort Ancient

Museum adds events for interest

        This is a pivotal year for Fort Ancient State Memorial. When it reopens seven days a week on May 1, its director hopes attendance will increase at the old Indian site in Warren County.

        Since adding a museum containing 9,000 square feet of new exhibits (depicting 15,000 years of American Indian history in the Ohio Valley) in March 1998, attendance has been up and then down.

        “The first year we had a record number, 56,000 visitors,” said Jack Blosser, director of Fort Ancient. “The second year we had 44,000. Last year, 38,000. The honeymoon is over. We're trying to increase the promotional stuff.”

        He said he is working with the Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau and Montgomery County tourism groups to help spread the word about Fort Ancient, 6123 Ohio 350, near Oregonia.

        The site, operated by the Ohio Historical Society, is seven miles southeast of Lebanon.

        Fort Ancient features an astronomical alignment system and mounds — not for burial.

        “This is a place of ceremony,” Mr. Blosser said.

        The Hopewell people built the site's 18,000 feet of earthen walls 2,000 years ago. They dug out the earth with shoulder blades of deer, split elk antlers, shells and sticks. The theory is the North Fort walls mark the movement of the sun and moon at solstices.

        But is there a future for such a state memorial in this world of computers, videos, and a lack of knowledge about our past?

        Staff members think so.

        To help, they've started events such as the annual Artifact Identification Day (noon to 3 p.m. May 12), which allows people to bring in unknown objects for examination by professionals.

        With the help of Brigitte Hisey, the site's education specialist, Fort Ancient will conduct more programs for the public this year. They include a Night Hike (8:30-10:30 p.m. Aug. 3) to learn about the sky. It will give a look at the forest at night and tales around a campfire.

        The biggest event is the Fort Ancient Celebration (11 a.m. to 7 p.m. June 9 and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. June 10). Visitors will celebrate Native American heritage and see demonstrations, dancing and games.

        “The other thing that's new is our education room with murals and various activities,” Ms. Hisey said. “It's a work in progress. We hope to have it done by June when we have our celebration. We hoping to have more interaction, especially for kids. We get a lot of families in here and hopefully we can light a spark with them.”

        This year's programs also will include Children's Day (1-4 p.m. July 14), for kids to play games and participate in a scavenger hunt; the summer solstice celebration (5:30 a.m. June 21), when you can watch the sunrise through an opening in the earthworks on the first day of summer; and special summer and fall tours (2-4 p.m. July 15 and 1-3 p.m. Oct. 14 and 2 p.m. Oct. 15.) Visitors will walk around the site.

        Until April 30, Fort Ancient is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. It will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily from May 1-Oct. 1 and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday from Oct. 4 to Nov. 30.

        Admission is $5 for adults; $1.25 for children 6-12 years; and 75 cents for the younger kids.

        Randy McNutt's column runs on Saturday. He may be reached at 860-7118 or at The Cincinnati Enquirer, 4820 Business Center Way, Cincinnati, OH 45246.


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