Matt Rowe

The Reitz Home Museum has long been a jewel among historians. The admired grandeur of this three-story, 19th century home — once the residence of one the city’s most prominent and philanthropic families — stems from round-the-clock fundraising and upkeep from a dedicated, small staff. But the real magnitude of the museum falls on Matt Rowe, the museum’s new executive director. He replaced longtime Reitz head Tess Grimm after she retired in January. As the new face of the Reitz Home, Rowe, a former librarian and soirée regular, thinks big. One dream: “I want a carriage to display in our carriage house,” Rowe says, but in his first year, he isn’t making an exhaustive overhaul. “Like all executive directors of nonprofit organizations,” he says, “I want to us to be financially secure so we can fulfill our mission.”

What if money was not a concern? “I want to see the gift shop in our carriage house transformed into a profitable business that produces income to support our activities,” Rowe says. “I’d like to host conferences here for organizations like Indiana Landmarks and the Victorian Society in America. I want to develop and refine our collections of furnishings, antiques, and art. I want to showcase these collections with special exhibits. I want to develop new programming that will draw a new generation of visitors to visit us here and see what we do. Most of all, I want to frame everything we do in a way that conveys that history is rich and exciting. Do some people think history is boring? Do people think the Reitz Home is boring? Or only for old people? It isn’t.”

For those dreams to come true, Rowe needs community support, and the Reitz Home Museum has a passionate following dedicated to fundraising and donating. When it comes to the general public, though, there may be a disconnect. “I have concerns that people don’t realize what the Reitz Home is for,” Rowe says. “We believe that it is as much a history-teaching tool as a textbook. It is a three-dimensional history lesson that you can walk through and experience in a different way than you would in a classroom.”

That experience comes through a variety of events. In late April, the Reitz Home was the venue for a small wedding — a first for the museum — and school field trips are a regular occurrence during the year. But there’s no age limit to the Reitz Home. “I want you to come see (the museum) and let me try to excite you about it the way that I am,” Rowe says. “I want you to share this with me.”

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