POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — The Point Pleasant River Museum and Lakin Cook Learning Center Board has hired James McCormick as the new director.
McCormick, a retired United States Army veteran, says he enjoys history and archaeology. He recently graduated with a degree in history.
“History has always been something that fascinated me,” McCormick said.
Since retiring from the military, McCormick has been involved in many organizations and programs. He created a veterans to farming movement and eventually wrote the state program for Veterans and Warriors to Agriculture Project, where he assists veterans in their transitions back to civilian life.
In addition to the agricultural programs, McCormick also takes veterans and their families on archaeological digs to find historical relics and learn how to preserve them. The groups have been in other states to search for artifacts and McCormick has begun plans to conduct a dig in Turkey.
McCormick said the “strong suit” he brings to the museum is his background and love for history. He plans to be able to incorporate his hobbies into the learning center at the river museum.
Along with this, McCormick’s plans as director of the museum include having partnerships with the local vocational and high schools to teach students about river operation, looking into creating a corporate legacy board for companies who work on the river, maintaining relationships with original donors and families, setting up community involvement, and of course, building the new museum.
McCormick said at least 85 percent of his efforts right now are going toward getting the new building built. As previously reported by the Register, a bid has not been awarded to build the new river museum because all six that were received by the committee were over budget.
McCormick said they need to find $500,000-600,000 in additional funds to construct the building. McCormick has been writing grants and requested $550,000 from Gov. Jim Justice’s office to help with the cost.
McCormick noted these costs were only for the building itself, not to display artifacts or any other operation costs. McCormick is creating plans for how he wants the museum displays to “flow.”
“When I look at establishing the museum, we need to take a walk through time,” McCormick said. “We want the museum to flow like a river.”
The plans McCormick is creating will be set like a timeline — beginning with the prehistoric era.
“When you walk into the museum, you should be able to walk into that time period and then step into the 1600s and the 1700s and the chaos of the American Revolution and the Battle of Point Pleasant,” McCormick said,” and how the river played a significant role in every bit of that.”
McCormick said the pandemic has restricted the museum greatly with visitors, volunteers and fundraising efforts. The board wants to set up an online donation site for individuals to have another option to donate to the river museum to cover operating costs and setting up the displays.
McCormick said he believes the museum will be an “economic driver” for the community. He has hopes that many visitors will come to visit the only river museum in the state and bring business to the city, county and region.
“When this museum is up and fully operational, I would expect to see us bring anywhere from 15,000-20,000 visitors per year starting in the first year and do nothing but go up,” McCormick said.
McCormick grew up in Putnam County, W.Va., but moved to New Haven, W.Va. with his wife and children after retirement from 22 years in the military. He volunteers for many non-profits and veteran organizations as well as being an ordained minister. He has been awarded with several military awards and honors.
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Kayla (Hawthorne) Dunham is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Reach her at (304) 675-1333, ext. 1992.