Aurora museum exhibit puts focus on work

Published: Apr. 9, 2021 at 9:53 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - A new exhibit has opened at the Plainsman Museum in Aurora. “The exhibition we have called ‘Community Works’ is a collaboration between ourselves and the Smithsonian,” Plainsman Museum Executive Director Tina Larson said. “We found out about it through Humanities Nebraska in the early part of 2019.”

Good news came quickly in April of that year. “We found out that our application had been accepted by the Smithsonian as one of ten museums across the country to partner with them as they were trying to develop a tool kit for small museums on how to do an exhibition,” Larson said.

Museum volunteers were then given a handbook from the Smithsonian on how to put the project together. The exhibit takes a close look at labor in Hamilton County over the last 150 years. “Everything you will see here in our exhibit is from Hamilton County, Nebraska,” Larson said. “All of the photographs, the text story, and we are telling our story on work over the 150 years. All of the archives you see are from our collections.”

The exhibit is made up of four sections. “Where we work, how we work, who works, and why we work,” Larson said. “You will go through and see text that describes our area. You will see photographs original to Hamilton County over the last 150 years. You will see artifacts from Hamilton County that help to tell the story in more of a three dimensional way.” Volunteers say working with the Smithsonian was challenging and fun. “The team started looking at the template that the Smithsonian sent us,” volunteer Bruce Ramsour said. “We found out very quickly that we couldn’t just copy their plan. We had to make changes, for instance, they talked about mining, well there’s just not a lot of mining in Hamilton County. So we took what we could, and we started working with it, changing it, and editing many times so that we could get something that flowed, that worked for Hamilton County, and made sense to the 150 years of work that’s gone into this county.”

Once the plan was in place, photos were selected at the museum. “And they have thousands and thousands of photos,” Ramsour said. Artifacts were selected, to help re-examine local history as well. The local community is expected to really enjoy the exhibit. Educators are also very excited about being able to bring their students to the museum, to show them what work has been like through the years. “I like to incorporate as much local and state history into my curriculum as I can,” Aurora board member and 11th grade history teacher Brenda Klawonn said. “To be able to bring my students here and see this, not only in the rotunda where we have the town exhibits, but to have them look at the work exhibit as well is great. A lot of them work outside of school, this is a good chance to see how they connect, that this is their history.”

The Plainsman Executive Director hopes this exhibit will encourage visitors to explore further. “Now that you’ve kind of been given the table of contents here, now go see what the rest of the museum is, because that will help support this particular part of our story,” Larson said.

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