Snook, retired twice, again takes reins of Geneseo Historical Museum

Claudia Loucks
For the Republic
Angie Snook retired twice as curator of the Geneseo Historical Museum, and has been called out of retirement both times.

Angie Snook is hoping the third time will be a charm for her retirement.

She first retired as curator at the Geneseo Historical Museum in 2015, but returned in 2016 to take the place of a director who had resigned. In the fall of 2019, Snook thought she was stepping into retirement once again, but was asked to be in charge of the museum again late last year.

In looking ahead, she said her “third” retirement is scheduled for May of 2024 when Melanie Rice will become the museum director. Rice is currently a social worker for the Geneseo School District, but is retiring from that position in May of 2024.

“I am excited for Melanie to become the director,” Snook said. “She has been on the museum board for many years and I know she has a passion for Geneseo history.”

In retirement, Snook plans to continue to be involved at the museum, and she said, “The museum is like my baby. I have given it up for adoption, but I still have visiting rights.”

Currently, the museum is open 10 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, or by appointment by calling 309-944-3043, or by email at ghmuseum8@gmail.com.

Snook was named curator in 1996, but her involvement with the museum’s place in history started nearly 20 years earlier during her time as a volunteer and board member.

She was instrumental in the purchase of the Italianate house for the museum, which had been located in the original Geneseo Public Library building on State St.

“As president of the Geneseo Historical Museum, I knew that house would be the perfect setting for the new museum,” she said.

The museum board submitted a bid to purchase the home and when that bid was opened by Rosalie Thede, owner of the home, Snook recalled Thede said, ‘That is what my mother always wanted.’”

In November of 1996 the Thede home became the Geneseo Historical Museum’s permanent home.

“We were working on a fund to pay for the new museum,” Snook said. “The late Don Stocks was the curator at that time and somehow found a way to save $113,000 during his 25-year tenure. The late Marie Lodge, a museum board member, gave the Historical Association a $100,000 loan “to get the museum up and going,” Snook said.

During the museum’s move from the “old library” to its new home, Stocks became ill and died.

In 1996, after being a preschool educator at Growth, Inc., Geneseo, Snook became the curator. The museum opened its doors to its new home during Geneseo’s 1997 Victorian Walk.

“People were lined up to see the museum, to the north along the downtown street,” Snook said, adding that more than 2,700 people visited the museum on that evening.

“In the spring of 1998, the museum had so many tours and programs scheduled that the board decided it was necessary to set regular hours of operation,” she said. “In 2014, there were about 11,000 visitors to the museum and about 3,200 students came for tours and our annual 'Pioneer Day.'"

And Snook also takes museum programs on the road and has visited schools in the Quad City area, Galva, Cambridge and Colona.

Students in the Geneseo School District visit the museum in person.

“In the past many high school football teams visit the museum when they come to play football in Geneseo," she said. "The ‘underground railroad’ stories are the biggest reason for all the programs and tours. Slavery and the freedom trail that are part of Geneseo’s heritage have generated great interest.”

In 2003, a museum volunteer, Bea Welsh, convinced Snook the museum would be the perfect place for tea parties for little girls.

Those were not just tea parties as Snook and volunteers incorporated “taking tea and tea etiquette” in the events.

“Little did we know how much fun it was going to be for the children, but also for myself and ‘Maid Alice’, (the late Alice Lopez)," she said. "The children loved it and our tea parties snowballed into teas for women, boys and girls and entire families.”

The rule at the tea parties was that everyone had to choose a hat from the museum collection to wear to the tea party.

“Over the years there have been hundreds of tea parties for all ages and it was one of the highlights that the museum offered,” Snook said. “Sadly, we are not able to host the children’s tea parties any longer, due to guidelines in place as a result of the pandemic.”

Snook commented that creating displays has always been a favorite for her.

“I loved the museum from the very first time I became involved as a volunteer,” she said. “Hearing stories from the visitors and sharing in their love for antiques and history brings me great joy.”

She said what gives her the most joy is when donors share the history of what they are donating to the museum and how the item had been saved for generation.

"That is heartwarming,” Snook said. “To think they loved it enough to give it to the museum to preserve and display. Everything in the museum is a gift and is special.”

Each item donated has been logged and numbered with the name of the donor.

The success of the museum would not be possible without the support from many people, Snook said. “There have been many people in my nearly 40 years that have done much to insure the museum will always be alive with history.

"None of the projects would have been possible without all the gifts, estates, grants, donations and the many volunteers sharing their time and talents. Many local businesses discounted their materials and services for the museum.”

In 1996, the museum board made a wish list and with everyone working together, these visions came to fruition.“We were able to add the Stees & Keppy Education Wing in 2010 and the carriage house on Center St. in 2014. Both of those projects would not have been possible without all the donated hours of labor by the late Les Stees and his brother Gene Stees.”

The museum is a 501c3 non-profit organization which does not receive any city, state or federal tax dollars.

Snook’s family has been part of her “journey,” and she said from the time her own children were youngsters they went with her to the museum.

The couple has one daughter, Ami (Jon) Murray, (children Sam and Eryn Murray), Geneseo; and son, Andy (Trista) Snook, (children Aydan and Josephine Snook) who live in Bangkok, Thailand.

Many family vacations were spent doing research and Snook recalled the years she and husband Mel followed the freedom trail along the Ohio River.

“It confirmed the fact that Geneseo’s founding fathers were among the 70 early abolitionists,” she said. “That led to our research vacation to Genesee County in New York, and that trip proved that our founding fathers came here in their quest to abolish slavery. That discovery ranks right up there with getting married, having children and grandchildren.”In her retirement, she plans take more vacations of her husband’s choosing, she said, and added that one of her first priorities “is to compile everything and finish my book on our founders’ history and their work in the Underground Railroad.”