Jubilee Museum slated to reopen this spring in downtown Columbus

Danae King
ThisWeek group
Shawn Kenney (left) and Loren Brown stand where the new Jubilee Museum and Catholic Cultural Center in Columbus will reopen in the spring. It will be at 257 E. Broad St., where the original Wendy's restaurant was. Before it was Wendy's, the building was an automobile dealership. Kenney is director of the museum, and Brown is president and CEO of the Catholic Foundation.

After more than a year of being closed, the Jubilee Museum and Catholic Cultural Center in Columbus will reopen in a new location in the spring.

The Catholic museum, founded in 1998 by a priest, will reopen in about six months in the Catholic Foundation building, 257 E. Broad St. in downtown Columbus, said diocesan chancellor deacon Thomas Berg.

The museum, a part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus, houses numerous artifacts of religious life locally and globally.

"This is a very exciting move for us, and we're looking forward to being able to open up in the near future," said Shawn Kenney, museum director.

The museum was closed in August 2019 to restructure, do inventory and repair a leaky roof at its Franklinton location in the old Holy Family high school at 57 S. Grubb St., Kenney said.

It was ready to be reopened in March, but leaders decided to hold off because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, he said. 

The new location will offer benefits the old one did not, including a handicap-accessible space, a street-level entrance and temperature-controlled rooms to preserve its artifacts, Kenney said.

The building itself is historic: It was the first Wendy's restaurant location and its corporate headquarters.

The Catholic Foundation building at 257 E. Broad St. in Columbus will be the location of the new Jubilee Museum and Catholic Cultural Center.

Loren Brown, CEO and president of the Catholic Foundation, said the organization had been using the space for storage, waiting for a tenant that relates to its mission.

It found that in the museum. 

"This is a natural fit for us, too, in having something that is much aligned with our Catholic faith," Brown said. "(There is a) synergy it brings between our donors, as well as the Catholic community and the public in general, to see the rich history of what our Catholic faith has done in our diocese."

The space is smaller than the previous one, though Kenney said that is OK because the museum has refined its collections.

Volunteers and staff members inventoried all the pieces and are keeping only the objects that are museum-quality, he said. They have plans to allow the public in to see pieces that are "neat" but not museum-quality, and those pieces will be available for a donation, Kenney said. 

Other items, including altars and paintings, were given away to convents and new religious orders moving into the diocese for their use, Kenney said. 

"The museum's mission is preserving the Catholic mind and memory," Kenney said. "The goal was not to keep them there long term but to get them out to be used for the purpose they were intended for."

The museum also has sent items to a cathedral being built in Nigeria and to other churches around the world, he said.

One exhibit, Kenney's personal favorite, still will be in the museum when it reopens. Donated from the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America, the exhibit features vestments, coins from the time of Christ and a second-century Roman spear. It also has a chalice featuring an amethyst and pearl stone that originally was part of a necklace belonging to Mary, Queen of Scots, Kenney said.

"We have a spectacular collection," Kenney said. "When this museum started, it just started as a little project, and it's turned into something nobody expected. It's really a treasure."

The museum was founded in 1998 by the Rev. Kevin Lutz, a former priest who most recently was serving at St. Mary Catholic Church in German Village.

Lutz retired in September 2019 and no longer is involved in its operations.

The museum is popular during the holiday season for its nativity scenes, which it won't be able to show this year, though Kenney is hoping to post photos of nativities with descriptions online during the days of the Advent, he said.

Kenney also is planning for one of its first exhibits in its new location to feature a Lego church a volunteer is currently building.

In 2018, the museum showed a piece from a Pennsylvania priest, the Rev. Bob Simon, who had constructed a replica of the Vatican in Rome using 500,000 Lego pieces.

"People love Legos," Kenney said.

He said he is hoping – pandemic allowing – that the museum could hold Lego-building workshops, allow people to buy Lego kits to build their favorite religious monument or church and have competitions for building the best Lego creations.

Kenney said he is happy with the new museum location in downtown Columbus, near the diocesan offices and St. Joseph Cathedral.

Brown agreed. 

"Now we're offering the public another reason to come downtown and want to be on Broad Street," Brown said, mentioning other downtown attractions, such as the Columbus Museum of Art, the cathedral and historic church buildings.

Part of the museum's mission is to evangelize, and Kenney said it does that through education and exposure to the faith through art and artifacts.

"It's a place for everybody, and I want people to know that," he said. "Please come in and see."

dking@dispatch.com

@DanaeKing