Southern Ohio Museum
The Southern Ohio Museum, located in an old bank and opened in 1979, showcases Portsmouth’s culture and history. Permanent exhibits include the Wertz Collection’s Art of the Ancients, with over 10,000 objects that date back as far as the Paleo Indian era when the area was first settled by humans; the Carl Ackerman Collection of photos of Portsmouth from the 1860s through the 1980s; and the paintings of Portsmouth’s most famous painter, Clarence Holbrook Carter. The museum also features a 100-seat theater, reading room, student art studio, and exhibitions from local artists.
Backstory and Context
Business-owner George D. Selby joined others in the Portsmouth-area shoe industry to organize a bank in 1904. Selby’s Security Savings Bank & Trust Company moved from its original location on Gallia Street (which is still standing today) to a new beaux-arts style building across the street in 1918. In 1929, just after the stock market crash, Selby’s bank merged with Central National Bank of Portsmouth. In 1974, the president of the Security Central National Bank, Harry Kuhner, decided to move the bank from Selby’s building to the old Montgomery Ward building.
Locals then decided to open a museum in the beautiful old building, but first, funding was needed. To help with this, Edmund J. Kricker, chairman of the board and chief executive officer at First Federal Savings & Loan Association, offered to donate one dollar for every two dollars that were raised. Because of his help, the initial campaign brought in about $300,000. With this money, renovations on the old building began and collections for permanent exhibits were acquired. The Southern Ohio Museum and Cultural Center opened to the public in 1979.