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North Platte Valley Museum

April 16, 2010

The North Platte Valley Museum doesn’t look like much from the outside: a modern, unassuming, mustard-colored metal building. But inside, the lobby is a hodgepodge of salvaged vintage architecture.

Notice the marble, glass, and old, glowing wood of the ticket counter, originally part of the McGrew Bank. Look up. See that tin ceiling? It was rescued from Hall’s Furniture in Mitchell, restored and painted by hand. Make sure to ask about the music box in the lobby, too. If you’re lucky, you can hear it play.

The exhibits begin with the first human inhabitants of the area.

Next up, the fur trappers, including a “petting wall” of real and faux animal pelts. (Will you be able to tell the difference?)

Then, the overland pioneers, and kids are encouraged to play the part. (I love how the exhibit on blacksmithing uses Christmas lights for glowing embers, and a later exhibit uses red-sequined cloth for campfire coals.)

Then on to the Pony Express and stagecoaches. (Handsome fellow, ain’t he?)

Some of my favorite items are in the exhibits spanning the decades around the turn of the 20th century.

The level of detail in the Mary Ann Jane Plumbly Simmons crazy quilt is . . . crazy. I could spend 20 minutes just looking at this quilt.

And then there are the artifacts relating to Dr. Georgia Arbuckle Fix. I love her story, and have posted about her once already. The museum has her medical school diploma. And her medical bag. And a microscope she donated to a local school. Dr. Fix is modeled in two displays as well. Gee, I didn’t know she looked so glamorous.

There are some automobiles on display. There’s a one-room schoolhouse exhibit (make sure to look for the rules that applied to teachers’ conduct in those days) and a general store.

One of my favorite parts of the museum is the Garlock cabin — an actual portion of a rough-hewn log cabin, with parts stripped away to reveal its construction. The living-room setup look so cozy, it seems almost contemporary to me. I really feel a connection to the past when I look at the artifacts in this “room”.

At the end of the path through the museum, there are photo montages of information about happenings in the community up to the present. Makes sense to include the present in a history museum. We’re living through the history of tomorrow, after all.

On the grounds of the museum are a log cabin and a sod house. Disappointingly, the weather was bad the day I visited the museum, so I couldn’t look inside. I’ll just have to go back another day. One thing’s for sure, if the museum ever holds a haunted house again, I am SO there! That kind of weirdness is right up my alley! (I love museums that don’t get all caught up in their own self-importance and can have a little fun.)

I enjoyed my visit to the North Platte Valley Museum and the “journey through time” aspect of its layout. As I mentioned in a previous post, the museum is a great place to visit before stopping to see Robidoux Trading Post.

If you are visiting the area (or live here and just don’t get out much), North Platte Valley Museum is a must-see.

UPDATE: North Platte Valley Museum permanently closed in 2013 to join forces with the former Farm And Ranch Museum to become Legacy of the Plains Museum at 2930 Old Oregon Trail in Gering. See the Legacy of the Plains Museum website for the most recent updates.

Copyright 2010 by Katie Bradshaw

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