This is Home: “America’s Smallest Community Museum”

Published: Jan. 29, 2021 at 4:01 PM EST
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The Ripley Convention and Visitors Bureau opened to the public in 2014, and officials realized that Ripley did not have a museum for tourists to enjoy when coming through.

Director Mike Ruben had his office set up with another small room in the building, and decided to use it for a museum.

He decided to take some advice from a former mayor of Ripley, in a plan to bring more people to the city.

“I took the idea from Don Fletcher,” Ruben said. “If you can’t be the biggest museum, well maybe you can be the smallest, and promote it that way and start drawing some attention to it.”

Ruben was unsure if he would be able to create the smallest museum in America.

He researched the current “smallest museum” in America to find out, measurement wise, how small it actually was. When he measured the dimensions of the Ripley C.V.B. building, it was determined that he had them beat.

“I found out that there is a museum at a restaurant in Arizona that promotes itself as having America’s Smallest Museum,” he said. “So, I got out the tape measure, and looked at the dimensions and found out that this museum is actually about five feet smaller.”

The museum is currently home to many artifacts from the city of Ripley. It includes large portraits of major events in the city’s history, such as the final public hanging in the state of West Virginia, as well as artwork from the first ever Mountain State Arts and Crafts festival, which was the first festival of it’s kind in West Virginia history.

The museum is pretty full currently, but they are always welcoming donations from residents or others that want to showcase Ripley’s history.

“We don’t have a whole lot of empty space,” said Ruben. “As people bring things in, I like to rotate things in and out as we can. And who knows, when someone brings in something very interesting then we’ll put it in a prominent place if I believe it is something that the public wants to see.”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, visitation has not been as high as it was previously, but people like to come back and reflect on the time they have spent in Ripley.

“A lot of people that grew up in Ripley that moved away and they come back and it brings back a lot of memories for them” Ruben said. “We’ve had everything from scout troops come in, before the COVID situation. And the historical society has been here and different people just like to come in and reminisce about days gone by.”

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