I: Iowa Museum
There is a place in Iowa that is very special to my heart. It’s the Taylor County Historical Museum. This museum entered my life in a most unusual way.
Around 2005 or 2006, I discovered a treasure at a Palm Springs yard sale. Amidst the car tires, videos, miscellaneous kitchenware and whatnots, a stack of 30 quilt squares lay in the middle of some old pieced quilt tops.
The quilt squares were signed with embroidered signatures and one was dated 1934. It took several years before I could track down some of the names, and found that they’d began their life in a little town sitting on the Iowa/Missouri border, Athelstan.
When I found there was a local museum not far from where the quilt squares were made, I got in contact with them to see if they wanted the squares.
In August 2014, I delivered the quilt squares to The Taylor County Historical Society. Through this process I’ve made some treasured friends, and the museum will forever be one of my favorite places. The entire community welcomed me with open hearts showing me true Iowa hospitality. They planned a special tea and I flew in from Texas, taking 20 fliers with me, hoping that we’d have at least that many people attend.
The reception literally knocked my socks off. The museum, in the midst of rural Iowa complete with the surrounding corn fields as far as the eye could see, hosted 72 guests that afternoon. Many museums in urban areas with a much larger population would be excited to have a crowd that large.
The only reason the day was so successful, was due to the time and efforts of their dedicated volunteers. Rosalyn Cummings, the (unpaid) director, worked tirelessly to coordinate the event. Helen Janson, past museum director, and her daughter, Jeanne Janson, spent time in research and brought copies of newspaper articles about the quilting club established in 1934. Ellen Lemke, the museum’s oldest volunteer at 99 years young (Now 100, heading towards 101 and still involved with the museum and her singing group) entertained the crowd with a lively talk about quilting and art, finishing with reading one of her poems on the subject. Bonnie Polston decorated a cake, complete with a coordinating Sunbonnet Sue, for the occasion. Other volunteers, Sandi Salen, Scott Marcum, Sandy Kennedy and Mary Lou Dukes, worked together seamlessly, greeting guests, getting more chairs as needed, helping serve cake and punch, besides the time and efforts they all put into this before the first guest arrived.
These wonderful volunteers are the ‘proof that’s in the pudding’. The love, care and concern that they have for their local museum shines out in all they do, even in the behind the scenes tasks that no one ever sees.
I hope this story resonates with you and urges you to contact your own local museum to see how you can be of assistance. There should be something that you can help with, without taking a huge amount of time or effort. I’m sure they’ll be ecstatic at your offer and you’ll have the satisfaction and pleasure of knowing you’re part of a group preserving the memories of the past. Your favorite museum can remain open and history is accessible to those interested in it.
Where is the hidden gem in your area?
Have you been there? Have you visited recently?
This week, give them a call. Check what hours they’re open and stop by for a visit. Take a peek into the past and see how you can be a friend to these local treasures.