NORTH CANTON — For years, the building on North Main Street was home for thousands of Hoover Co. employees. Last week, it opened its doors to a new generation.

Walsh University dedicated its IBEW 1985 Labor Museum and MakerSpace on Thursday in the former headquarters of the union, which represented local Hoover Co. employees for 60 years.

At its peak in the 1970s and '80s, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1985 represented more than 3,000 workers. It disbanded in 2016 when TTI Floor Care, which purchased Hoover from Whirlpool in 2007, closed its Jackson Township distribution center. It was the final Hoover business left in Stark County.

IBEW donated the Main Street building, across the street from the former Hoover Co., and its artifacts to Walsh University.

"They wanted to make sure their legacy was preserved," said Teresa Fox, Walsh's vice president of marketing and communications.

Walsh set out to create more than an archive, Fox said. "We wanted to make sure it was a place that not only honored the legacy of the local electrical union, but also a place that would be visited. That would be well-populated on a regular basis."

The museum is open by appointment only. It's designed to accommodate field trips, after-school clubs and other group outings, and can be booked by contacting Andrea Singarella at asingarella@walsh.edu or 330-490-7567.

 

Past and future

The museum combines the history of Local 1985 with a "makerspace" or interactive learning lab for children.

The walls are covered with pictures and exhibits about the union's impact and history. One corner houses a replica of the headquarters office during the 1980s, the union's heyday, including a typewriter and other memorabilia. Visitors who enter through the rear parking lot can grab a time card and log in with a working punch-card machine.

A podium exhibit focuses on labor demonstrations and strikes. Students can use the exhibit to make small speeches and try to persuade their classmates to join their cause, Fox said.

The makerspace components are designed to show the skills that union employees may have used, she said.

A Stamps and Seals station lets students make their own buttons or use an embosser. It also focuses on the importance of those items in branding and communication.

At the assembly line station, students work together to create an electronic circuit that lights up, makes noise or powers a small fan. The goal is to show how an assembly line operated and to illustrate how working together is more efficient than working alone, Fox said.

Circuits also play a part in the Electrical Know How station. In the future, students might use that station to take apart a television or radio to see how it works, Fox said.

The final station has a group of computers and a 3D printer. The goal is for students to take what they learn at the other stations and apply it to today's technology.

"In a way, it's bringing to life the skill set, the legacy of the union, and being able to apply those skills today. We're bridging the past with the present," she said.

The museum also offers a hands-on learning experience for Walsh students in the education and museum studies programs.