Plainsman Museum participates in Smithsonian pilot program

AURORA, Neb. (KSNB) - The Plainsman Museum is getting some national attention as they prepare to participate in a pilot program with the Smithsonian.

The Plainsman Museum is participating in a pilot program with the Smithsonian to create an exhibition handbook to help other museums in small communities. (Source: Kelsey Dickeson, KSNB)

They're one of ten museums across the country the Smithsonian selected for the program. Everyone will work together to create an exhibition handbook for other museums in small communities. The goal is to help enhance the way museums can tell stories.

"I just was floored," said Tina Larson, executive director of the Plainsman Museum. "I thought, "this is fantastic. This is really going to be something.""

To create the handbook, all the museums will put on an exhibition of their own. That way everyone can see what works best. They have to follow the theme of "work." The Plainsman chose to title their exhibition "Community Works."

People will sort through more than 100 photos to tell the story of Hamilton County. A committee will narrow those down to about 40 for the exhibition, which need to be approved by the Smithsonian. There are many more to chose from if they wish, including photos from donated scrapbooks.

All the photos will represent the evolution of what work means in the county. Larson said they hope to show how community works both functionally and socially.

"Work isn't something we do and go home. It really contributes. You spend your day working. So it really defines you, when you think about it. So we hope that will come out in exhibition," Larson said.

The museum is mostly in the planning stage right now. They're test driving the Smithsonian's format with a storyboard, which has a layout of 18 panels for the exhibition.

One volunteer helped make the selection process easier.

Over time, Berniece Luthy sorted out all the photos at the museum, and archived them on a computer. The original copies are in labeled files, lined on shelves.

"I number them, and then everything is cataloged. I put them on the computer so that it makes it easier for reference. I have them all in the towns they're in, the county," Luthy said.

All the photos they select have to be originals in order for them to be blown up.

Some of the possibilities include a photo of women answering phones; a woman teaching a group of other women how to sew; and neighbors helping a farmer clean up. There's another of a tailor with his two sons sitting inside their shop. All are in black and white. The oldest dates back to the late 1700s.

"We're going to renew your interest in your own story, because that's really what we are, is a collection of stories that are being told in many different ways," Larson said.

She said they're hoping to open the exhibition in March 2020, but might have some sneak peaks before then.

The amount of photos they have depends on funding. Larson said they're in the process of applying for grants.

You can also sponsor the exhibition. If you're interested in that you can call the Plainsman Museum at 402-694-6531.