Mike Ippoliti's only experience as a barber is when he cuts his own hair, but the former president of the Canal Winchester Area Historical Society knows much about one of the world's oldest professions.

As curator and director of the National Barber Museum and Hall of Fame in Canal Winchester, Ippoliti and many volunteers have been on a nearly three-year mission to reopen the museum at a new location after a fire in December 2014 forced it to close.

"If you would've asked me 10 years ago if I'd be running the barber museum and know as much as I know about barbering today, I would've told you you were nuts," Ippoliti said. "But it's become very interesting and a passion, and I've gotten to meet people from all over the world."

Volunteers under the leadership of retired Violet Township Director of Operations Bill Yaple have spent months renovating unused classroom space at 135 Franklin St., behind the Canal Winchester school district's administrative offices.

Some of the museum's rooms are expected to open to the public next month.

"I keep telling people that, hopefully, it's going to reopen in my lifetime," Ippoliti said. "But there's so much to be done."

Canal Winchester has been home to the National Barber Museum since 1988, when it was established by the late Ed Jeffers, who was CEO of the National Association of Barber Boards and director of the Ohio Barber Board.

Jeffers began his collection with only about a dozen pieces. That grew to several thousand artifacts, from barber poles to chairs, razors, mugs and more, housed in 3,500 square feet above the Wigwam restaurant at 2 S. High St.

When fire struck the restaurant, much of the museum's contents suffered smoke damage and the items were sent away to be refurbished.

Ippoliti and others have spent countless hours unpacking and cataloguing the museum collection, including 71 barber poles, thousands of razors, 3,000 shaving mugs and numerous chairs, some of which date to the Civil War.

According to the museum's website, the profession dates to 5000 B.C. when barbering services were performed by Egyptian nobility. Crude instruments were usually formed from sharpened flint or oyster shells.

Starting in the Middle Ages, barbers often served as surgeons and dentists. Bloodletting tools are some of Ippoliti's favorite items in the museum.

"It's the largest museum in the world when it comes to barbering," he said. "There are some nice smaller museums, but they have nowhere near the stuff that we have. Ed used to bill it as the largest in the world."

The museum has welcomed visitors from all 50 states as well as many foreign countries. It also has been featured on the Discovery Channel, the Family Channel and Fox Live and the front page of the Wall Street Journal.

"There are probably more people internationally who know about this museum than the people here in Canal Winchester," Ippoliti said.

The Canal Winchester Area Historical Society took over the museum in April 2007 following Jeffers' death a year earlier. In his will, Jeffers specified that the museum remain in Canal Winchester.

Ippoliti has helped to ensure that Jeffers' legacy and the profession he adored lives on.

"It's interesting, and it's a labor of love," Ippoliti said. "I'm enjoying it."

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