For years, the London school disaster existed only in yellowed scrapbooks and stories passed from generation to generation. Times have changed.
The London Museum, opened in 1995, sits in an old drug store across from West Rusk High School, the site of the original school.
The museum movement began in 1980 when a new generation of students started asking survivor Mollie Ward what she remembered.
“That’s when I really realized history was beginning to be forgotten,” Ward said.
So she started collecting everything from poems to pictures to prayers. Families donated keepsakes: a shoe, a tattered dress, and a pocketknife used to identify a little boy’s body. A historical marker says 296 people died in the disaster. Ward says no one knows for sure. She has documented 305 lives lost when a spark ignited unscented natural gas that had pooled underneath the school.
“For decades, the people of New London didn’t talk about what happened here,” Ward said. “It was simply too terrible, the images too horrific. The museum movement helped change all that, and now survivors once silent are sharing their stories.”
Survivors say the museum helps the healing, still ongoing after six decades. In fact, some of the museums volunteer guides are survivors.
HOURS 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Large groups should call ahead to set up a time for their visit so volunteer tour guides can be arranged.
ADMISSION $3 for adults and $1 for children.
INFORMATION For more information or to make reservations, call 903-895-4602.
DONATIONS Those interested in making donations to the museum can contact the London Museum, P.O. Box 477, New London, Texas, 75682.
Information courtesy of William N. Grigg Jr. and the New London School Explosion Web site at http://www.nlse.org/. For more information on the museum, go to http://www.nlse.org/museum.html.