Everything in Annette Wells’ history has led to her new job as director of the Wood County Museum, started in August.
Her first job was at the Edison Birthplace Museum in Milan, the former home of inventor Thomas Edison.
“That was my job on the weekends in high school. I was a docent and I gave tours, and then I cleaned the place,” Wells said. “I don’t know how many times I did that tour, but I could tell it in my sleep.
“I’ve always loved history, but that got the ball rolling.”
While attending college at Mercyhurst in Pennsylvania, Wells visited the Niagara, a tall ship that is a replica of Oliver Hazard Perry’s flagship from the War of 1812’s Battle of Lake Erie. There was a museum attached to the ship.
“One of my professors was a former director of the Erie Maritime Museum. He not only knew the history, but he knew what makes a good museum and the kind of elements that goes into what makes a good exhibit, and what attracts children and how do you make history important to people.
“How do you get them to take pride in their heritage by doing exhibits and programs that feature things about their ancestors?”
After graduating with a degree in public history, she was hired as the Edison Birthplace Museum director. That led to the director’s job at the Maritime Museum of Sandusky.
It had a venue to rent, and there were many more exhibits and programs, including a lecture series, Wells said.
“That was really the next step up. It was like a whole other world,” she said. “It was a smaller, local museum. But it had so much potential. I really loved that place.”
Her husband’s career, though, took the family away from Ohio and her work. At the end of 2018, they relocated to Georgia after Dominic finished his doctorate and was hired at Clayton State University.
Wells settled into mom mode, raising her two boys, who are now in preschool and first grade, but the family missed Ohio.
Two years later, Dominic, who graduated from Bowling Green State University, was hired at the university in the political science department, and the family moved back to Northwest Ohio.
With her boys a little older, Wells started looking for work and ended up as site manager for the North Baltimore Senior Center.
“They do programs for seniors, in addition to serving lunch everyday,” she said. “I liked the program aspect of it. And, a few times, we actually had the (Wood County Museum) educational coordinator, Mike McMaster, come down and do a history program on Wood County. Those were the best.”
Wells heard about the opening of the history museum’s director job and decided to apply.
“I’d been to the site a few times, but I’d never had a tour,” she said. “I knew it was a large, historical, working farm at one point and that it was a partnership between the historical society and the county. And that is something I had never experienced.”
Wells, who started in August, said that she is appreciating the robust staff at the museum. That includes McMaster, a curator and events publicist.
Together, they are planning the next big exhibit at the museum. It will be on World War II with a 2025 debut.
“It’s going to take a full year to build it, and it probably next year to plan it,” Wells said.
They are also planning a smaller exhibit on development disabilities and its history in Wood County.
Music and the Museum, an outdoor event that was a hit this summer, will be expanded in 2023, Wells said.
In addition to the staff, she also appreciates the museum grounds, with a log cabin, oil derrick and cemetery, and all it has to offer the community.
“I see people enjoying it in different ways. You have the people … who read every (informational) panel word for word. It takes them all day to go through the museum.
“And then you have families with young kids that come through. And, yes, they kind of breeze through, but they get something out of it.”