Museum celebrating its first 20 yearsAugust 8, 2019
By CANDY NEAL
The Dubois County Museum has lived up to expectations so far in its 20-year history.
“You look at our exhibits and how skillfully they are put together,” said Mary Ann Hayes, collections chairman for the museum. “We have people come in a say the nicest things, about how outstanding they think our museum is.”
The museum started as an idea in the minds of several people, including the late Lowell Glendening and the late Ida Jo Temple.
Glendening, who was a bank executive and a former county agriculture officer, was seeing old farm equipment in fields rusting away, County Historian Art Nordhoff explained. Temple, who was an officer of the American Legion auxiliary, was noticing that military items from World War I and World War II were either being sold or thrown away.
“They wanted to save those items,” Nordhoff said.
They each contacted Nordhoff, who they knew was interested in history. And he shared his own concerns.
“Many historical items, items of our forefathers, were either going on the trash piles or being sold in auction sales and leaving the community,” he said. “I thought it was important that we keep those items in Dubois County.”
The three of them met at Nordhoff’s office to talk about creating a place to store and display those items.
“We were looking for something, some way to salvage these items that were being lost,” Nordhoff said.
Meanwhile, others in the community were also thinking that the county needed to preserve its history. Many of them came out to a military memorabilia display held the summer of 1997 at Trinity United Church of Christ’s parish hall.
They came up with a plan and hoped to get more support for their endeavor. And the support came in. More than 300 people stepped up by January 1999 to become charter members of the museum. People from all over the county were willing to donate and loan items for museum displays.
“We’ve had such a tremendous response,” Hayes said.
The Dubois County Museum officially opened Strassenfest weekend 1999. It was located in a section of the Gramelspacher-Gutzweiler building on Main Street. At the time, Vincennes University Jasper Campus was using most of the building for classes.
While the museum was thankful for the space, organizers knew they needed more room.
“We had to store stuff all over the county, because we didn’t have enough room. People were giving us a lot of stuff,” Nordhoff said. “We were getting more stuff in than we could display. We had things stored all over the county: in chicken houses, vacant buildings, everywhere.”
Kimball International stepped up and offered the museum its original headquarters building at 2704 N. Newton St., which is where the museum is now. But a lot of work had to be done to establish rooms and areas for the displays. The community’s support came in handy, as many local people helped prepare the building.
Hayes said the Indiana Historical Society, one of the organizations that gave county organizers assistance, didn’t think the museum would be ready that quickly.
“When we were moving from the Gramelspacher-Gutzweiler building to here, the local history director was saying that it will take us years to get ready,” Hayes said. “He was absolutely overwhelmed when we were ready to go within a few months.”
The Dubois County Museum opened in its new and permanent home Strassenfest weekend 2004. “We thought that was appropriate,” Hayes said. “We officially started Strassenfest weekend 1999. So opening in our new home Strassenfest weekend seemed right.”
The Dubois County Museum has constantly expanded to put more items on display and to make the museum more interactive. People can see animals native to the area in the wilderness room. Children can build historical items in the children’s section. Visitors can walk inside an authentic log cabin or stroll through a historic community and look at different businesses and living areas in the village. Murals about the different communities in Dubois County are on the walls, accompanied by memorabilia. They can also see military, sports and farm machinery displays, all pertaining to the county’s history.
As of now, the museum has about 50,000 square feet of space and more than 43,000 artifacts. More than 500 people, families and businesses are members. The museum is completely funded by annual memberships, admission fees, donations and gifts from visitors, area residents and businesses. And the staff is comprised of volunteers.
“We couldn’t make it without them,” Hayes said.
The museum has earned various recognitions in the state. It was awarded a Certificate of Commendation for General Excellence by the American Association for State and Local History in 2005. It received the Outstanding Historical organization Award by the Indiana Historical Society in 2010. In 2016, the museum’s German immigration exhibit received a Legacy Award from the Indiana Bicentennial Committee.
Nordhoff said that Glendening and Temple would be as pleased as he is with the museum. “The museum has reached our goals,” he said.
The museum is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m.; it is closed on Monday. For more information, contact the museum at 812-634-7733 or at www.duboiscountymuseum.org.
Museum 20th celebration
The Dubois County Museum will celebrate its 20th birthday on Sunday on the museum grounds, 2704 N. Newton St.
At 10 a.m., a car show will be held in the grassy area east of the museum. Registrations to show a vehicle will be taken from 9 a.m. to noon the day of the show and the cost is $15 per vehicle. The first 50 cars registered will be given a dash plaque or plate. Judging will begin at noon and awards will be announced at 2:30 p.m.
A concession stand will be available outside starting at 10 a.m., and a silent auction will also be held.
Birthday activities will be held inside the museum from 1 to 4 p.m. Those include a petting zoo featuring baby animals from the Lee and Danielle Schnell Farm in Celestine, an “Are You Smarter than a Fourth Grader?” quiz featuring questions about Indiana, as well as face painting, clowns, balloon animals, a scavenger hunt, crafts and activities for children. Visitors can also decorate their own cupcake and enjoy cake, ice cream and music.
Museum volunteers who have been with the museum for years will give tours of various museum displays. Tom Kellams will be in the wildlife room, Melvin Meyer at the Meyer Planing Mill, Junie Himsel in the village, Greg Eckerle with the sports display, Bill Weikert in the military section, Tom Schum with the murals, Janet Kluemper in the German Area, Fred Hollinden and Mike Lindauer in the farm machinery room, Arnie Mehringer in the county history section and Kathy Tretter in the newspaper area.
On Sunday, admission into the museum has been discounted to $2 for adults and $1 for students. Museum members get free admission.
An online quiz about the museum and Dubois County is also featured on The Herald’s website. Those who participate will be eligible to win prizes. Take the quiz here.
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