In addition to signaling the beginning of an early workday, it reminded the people of Cleveland that they were at war by blowing when it was time for blackout drills.
When World War II ended, it blew to share the news Cleveland had been hoping to hear.
The whistle was one of the pieces on display at a new exhibit at the Museum Center at Five Points as members got a glimpse at a new exhibit called “Cleveland Works” Thursday night. The exhibit, the first to occupy a new space for rotating displays at the museum, tells about the beginnings of the city’s rise to becoming the growing place of industry it is today.
Lisa Chastain, the museum’s curator of collections, said it was after the Great Depression and through World War II that companies really began constructing and manufacturing on a large scale. The new exhibit focuses on the stories of the people, places and things that shaped Cleveland’s future.
“Without this, we wouldn’t be the town that we are today,” Chastain said.
Objects in the exhibit include the whistle, which she described as her favorite piece in the collection because of its place in Cleveland history and the sense of pride the workers who purchased it for the company had in it.
Another piece in the collection, a 2-ton Model 31 Linotype machine, was once used to set type for printing presses in the process of creating publications like newspapers and posters. The museum’s executive director, Hassan Najjar, said it’s his favorite piece because it showed visitors a difference between the way something was done then as opposed to now.
“They can see how far we’ve come in technology,” Najjar said. “We’re really excited about showing it to the community.”
The exhibit as a whole features artifacts from the time when companies began manufacturing in Cleveland after the Great Depression and as production stepped up to help produce goods to supply troops fighting in the war.
Najjar said the space for the exhibits came after a realization that reworking existing square footage in the museum could offer the staff a place to show off new exhibits on a regular, rotating basis. After about a month of work, including putting up new walls and getting the Linotype machine that weighed as much as an elephant into the space, the museum was able to make “Cleveland Works” the first of many new exhibits.
“We got rid of some wasted space with fixtures and moved things around,” he said.
Christy Griffith, president of the museum’s board of directors, said the project was Najjar’s “first big milestone” since he became executive director earlier this year. She said she was glad to see the museum making a move toward adding new items to the collection and letting some items that had been in storage see the light of day.
Chastain said about 75 percent of the items in the “Cleveland Works” exhibit were items that had been donated by local residents and placed in storage because of a lack of space.
Some, she said, had even been in storage since the museum first opened in the 1990s.
“It’s our hope that, as we move forward, we will be pulling out even more items,” Chastain said. “These are the stories of our town.”
In addition to utilizing the artifacts the museum already has in its storage space, Najjar said the new exhibit hall could allow for traveling museum exhibits to make stops in Cleveland.
The “Cleveland Works” exhibit continues through Oct. 12, and another one is set to take its spot after that.
The opening of the exhibit took place as a sneak-preview event for members only Thursday night. Najjar said a variety of new benefits for the museum’s members were in the works as a way to thank the “family” that supported it. In addition to such events, members will soon be able to receive discounts at the museum’s gift shop and several other businesses throughout the downtown area by showing their membership cards.
Admission to the museum costs $5 for adults and $4 for students and seniors. Annual memberships start at $35 for individuals and $60 for families, and rise in price from there.
Visit the museum’s website, www.museumcenter.org, or call 339-5745 for more information.