'Preserving Our Past for Our Future'
Valley County Museum Offers a Look Back to Simpler Times
August 4, 2021
With antiquities and historical documents aplenty, the Valley County Pioneer Museum has much to offer Valley County residents stopping in to brush on their history.
"We do a lot of research," Ruthie Moran, Museum Supervisor, told The Courier during a recent visit. "People email us or come in to ask us about their grandparents who homesteaded here, and we try to look them up and find information for them. We have a lot of histories we have wrote up about the homesteaders."
The staff also provides a free public service to locals known as "family files," Moran said.
"Each family has a file and can write up their history. They can bring it in and we will put it in our family files. We do it as a public service. It helps when you start looking back."
The museum also received several old funeral cards from Bell Mortuary, which has helped them in their genealogical research, Moran said.
"We are trying to figure out who belongs to who."
The Pioneer Museum is supported by Valley County, the Historical Society, and Friends of the Museum. The theme of the museum is 'Preserving our past for our future.' It documents the history of Valley County and its people with authentic artifacts woven into historic displays.
Many of the items stored caringly at the museum have been given by area residents, Moran said.
"A lot of visitors say they can't believe the things people have donated. A lot of the younger ones don't want this stuff that they bring in from their houses, but it is all history."
These displays include the Chief First to Fly Indian collection, dioramas, murals, pictures of pioneers, and the Stan Kalinski room with ornate cherry wood bar and collection of animal and bird mounts.
"Stan's bar is really cool," Moran said. "Where Mary's Mercantile is now, that used to be Stan's Bar. He donated a bar that has a great big ole' back bar that was at Buffalo Bill Cody's."
A cutout of The Duke himself, John Wayne, greets visitors who saunter up the bar. Just don't expect a shot of tequila or whiskey to be served, and kindly refrain from spitting your chewing tobacco into the spittoons.
"We have spittoons there just in case," Moran said, adding They are not heavily used these days. "No! I hope not. I haven't checked lately."
Elsewhere in the museum, an indoor 1915 street scene captures a moment in time from a century ago to be observed by the modern eye. It includes a variety of businesses once located in Valley County.
A machinery lot across the street boasts many remnants of an earlier day, while a A 1920s Montgomery Ward kit home is also on site to tour.
Visitors will never be bored, Moran said. Nor will the five paid staffers and five unpaid volunteers who conduct research and greet visitors.
And, as COVID-19 restrictions have eased this year, Moran has noticed an uptick in visitors from out of town, coming from as far away as Massachusetts and Alaska, she said.
"We have had quite a few people in, from all over. We are tickled to death. The Tipi brings in a lot of visitors. We get a lot of complements it is one of the best museums visitors have seen. It really makes us feel good."
The Lewis and Clark Trail, which passes through the area, also draws in visitors.
"We have a lot who follow that trail who stop in," Moran said.
Moran estimated the museum has up to about 1,500 visitors annually, on noon restricted years. The numbers were less last year due to the pandemic.
"We cut down our hours," Moran said. "We made sure everything was sanitized and everyone was wearing masks."
Passing History Down
A major function of the museum is to teach youngsters about their heritage, Moran said.
"We have quite a few field trips in here, come May, from all over. Students need to know what has happened. The older you get, the more you are in to it."
Part of passing down such heritage means carefully preserving the past to be viewed and enjoyed.
"We have our displays, and they are all enclosed," Moran said, adding the museum is carefully controlled for climate.
"We keep it 68 to 70 degrees year round."
That means the museum is a great place to visit on hot summer days or cold winter days, except in January when the museum is closed.
During Fair Week, the museum offers a great escape for fair goers in need of some cool air and an escape from the sunshine, Moran said.
Moran said she encourages folks to come out and visit the museum whenever they can.
"I like to see a lot of people. I enjoy people. That is half of it. And, the history is very interesting. You start reading about one thing, and pretty soon you are into another, especially the old newspapers. You might be looking up a name, and it really goes."
The museum is located at 54109 Highway 2 West, in Glasgow.
Seasonal admission is $3 for adults, $2 students, with kids 6 and younger entering free of charge.
For more information, call 406-228-8692.