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Museum may lose fire items, location

– A southern Indiana city may lose one of the world’s top collections of vintage fire equipment after a fundraising drive to help secure a permanent location fell short.

Curt Peters, president of the Friends of the New Albany Fire Museum’s board of directors, told the News and Tribune that the group had hoped to raise enough money to buy the Coyle Chevrolet building, which has housed the historic Fred Conway fire collection since the museum opened in 2011. Its owners want to sell the building, but the campaign failed to bring in enough money for the group to purchase the site.

“It’s very understandable that they need to sell the building now, and we will continue, and we will grow and we will evolve,” Peters said.

Peters said a property owner in nearby Clark County has offered to house the New Albany Vintage Fire Museum and Education Center.

Peters said he believes the museum can still succeed no matter where it’s located. Next month, members of the national organization of the Fire Museum Network will visit southern Indiana to plan their 2014 convention at the museum, regardless of its location, he said.

“This project is bigger than one town, and bigger than one county,” Peters said.

Peters said there is no date set yet for closing the museum in New Albany.

“Obviously we can’t close down until we have another place to open up immediately,” he said.

An announcement about a Clark County location could come soon.

“If the museum is located in another county, as appears likely, we will always have our deep roots here in Floyd County,” Peters said.

If the museum moves to Jeffersonville, it could become part of an artists’ incubator and cultural district that Mayor Mike Moore’s administration has proposed for downtown.

The fire equipment collected by Conway, who founded Discount Labels in New Albany, includes pieces dating from 1756. Coyle died in 1999.