Activities, traffic pick up at museum


JASPER — More people are again starting to visit the Dubois County Museum.

And the staff and volunteers are welcoming them back with new exhibits, videos and free nights for visiting at no charge.

“I think people are starting to feel a bit more comfortable now that vaccines have rolled out in many places,” said Shirley J. Ray, director of the museum. “We're certainly seeing it pick up. It’s been better than it was, even a month ago.”

The museum, like every place else, experienced a decrease in visitors with the pandemic. But as things have been reopening, foot traffic at the museum has picked up.

“This week, with spring break, we've had some some pretty good numbers,” said Ray. “We’ve had a couple dozen people a day as opposed to just a handful like we had previously."

The museum has been offering walkers a chance to get their steps in with a discounted cost to enter and walk throughout the museum. The cost is $1 for the indoor exercise.

“That has increased visitation in the winter when the weather is bad,” Ray said. “January and February, were pretty big for walkers coming in, with that snowstorm.”

The museum is hosting Third Thursday Free Night, a evening when the museum is open. The events are held from 5:30 to 8 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month.

“We've tried to make it all the same this year, so it's always the third Thursday,” Ray said. “And this year it's featuring a new exhibit every month, as opposed to last year when it was programs and exhibits.”

The next Third Thursday Free Night is April 15. The theme is “The Bands Play On...” and highlights the Rustic, a popular tavern and dance hall that opened just north of Jasper in the early 1930s and operated for about 50 years.

The main attraction of this exhibit is the actual bar from the Rustic.

“The Rustic bar was given to us last year,” Ray said. “And it’s been installed into its permanent location. It’s pretty exciting.” The exhibit will feature photos and other images about the Rustic.

Upgrades, like music, will be added to the exhibit in the future. “It is a static exhibit at the moment,” Ray said. “We don't have a program scheduled because of COVID restrictions.”

Each Free Night’s theme will be based on an exhibit. “Once restrictions are lifted, we'll be allowed to add additional components,” Ray said. But at this moment, it's an exhibit.”

The theme of May 20’s Free Night is STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering and math.

“That is our first intention to do STEM programming for children and families. So that is intended to be hands on again, if we're allowed to do that,” Ray said. “Otherwise we will be looking at our agricultural equipment through a STEM lens, looking at the science and math of that.”

Videos are being produced that feature Arnie Mehringer, who is knowledgeable about agriculture and farming equipment, she said. “It's him explaining how the equipment works,” Ray said. “So we'll be building upon those videos to explain the science and the math.”

Future Third Thursday Free Night themes are

• June 17: "Rediscover Trains" featuring the train room

• July 15: Summer art show

• Aug. 19: Natural resources exhibit

• Sept. 16: 4-H exhibit

• Oct. 21: Spooky Streets Halloween trick or treating

• Nov. 18: "Home Economics in Dubois County"

• Dec. 16: Christmas

Videos are also being incorporated into various exhibits. People who are knowledgeable in different areas are filming a series of videos focusing on a particular exhibit’s theme. That includes Mehringer, who is filming the farming series, and Greg Eckerle, who is in charge of the museum’s sports exhibit and has made a series of videos about sports. The museum hopes to bring in a representative from the Sisters of St. Benedict for videos and some biologists for videos that would be shown in the wildlife room, Ray said.

“We're trying to bring in some expert interpreters for the different galleries and then making the videos,” she said. “We’re putting them on Facebook, putting them on Twitter and also installing them in the actual exhibits themselves.”

Two new research areas are also being added — one for the Dubois County Genealogical Society and the other featuring the Dubois County Herald archives, which are in bound books.

“So as you come in, there will be the opportunity there for research,” Ray said. “We've kind of reoriented our front lobby area into research as well as the admissions kiosk and the museum store.”

The facility itself has received some work. Part of the museum’s roof was replaced last year. “That was a major facilities improvement, which was all done with donations,” Ray said. “We have a couple other roofs that need attention, so we're working on getting estimates for those.”

Museum officials are starting to promote the 2021 membership campaign. People can become a member or renew their membership.

“We're really going to push that this spring,” Ray said, “to try to get people involved. But you can join anytime, and your membership is for a full year from that month.

Information about the museum, including becoming a member, can be found on the museum’s website, People can also fill out and turn in the form in the membership letter or stop by the lobby of the museum, 2704 Newton St., Jasper.

The museum is also on the Amazon Smile list as a donation recipient. People who shop on Amazon can do so through Amazon Smile and designate the Dubois County Museum as their charity of choice. The museum will get .05% of the amount they spend.

The Dubois County Museum is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday; it is closed on Monday.

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