Sunday, April 22, 2012

On the trail at Prairie Trails

Four of us were in Corydon yesterday for a day-long museums association meeting at Wayne County's Pioneer Trails, one of my favorite places in the whole wide world --- especially now, edging into second childhood. Lunch at Ludlow's, that restaurant on the southeast corner of the square named after Pioneer Trails board member Bill Gode's dog, was a bonus.

Although I neglected to take a photo of them, I like to begin a visit by ringing some of the dozens of old school and church bells that line the museum's entrance walk (you're allowed to do that; it's done officially every 4th of July when "Let Freedom Ring" at the museum kicks off a community celebration). Some find this annoying, but I do it anyway. The photos here are of some of my favorite places inside.

Amy's House, for example (at the top of this post). Amy, or Miss Robertson if you prefer, was a Promise Cityan, school teacher, entrepreneur, indefatigable worker as Pioneer Trails developed and major benefactor of everything Wayne County --- plus Simpson College in Indianola. As the end of her career approached, she decided to build Amy's House in the museum's vast west gallary to house her stuff --- unable to take it with her to the Promise City Cemetery. So you walk inside through the front door and find arranged in study, dining room, living room and bedroom settings her family furniture, memorabilia, pictures and other stuff. None of it's priceless --- just interesting.

I usually head early during a visit to this display at the north end of the east gallery, commemorating the place of the Mormon Pioneer Trail in both Wayne County and LDS history in the context of "Come, Come Ye Saints," that great LDS anthem whose words were written by William Clayton while that first party of westward-bound Saints were camped in the southeast part of the county on April 15, 1846. There are buttons to push here, something that always amuses me. Push the first one, and "Come,Come Ye Saints" plays faintly in the background as you walk through. Push the red one in front of the pioneer wagon, and the "Music and the Spoken Word" voice I'm most familiar with, broadcasting during my childhood from Temple Square, booms out the story before the Mormon Tabernacle Choir delivers a louder and more rousing rendition. It's wonderful!

One of my favorite more recent installations, in the west gallery, is this combination of fire truck and photo reproduced mural. The mural was painted during 1941 and remains in the Corydon Post Office. It depicts an imaginary fire in Corydon and features some of the city's finest old homes --- condensed. The fire truck in the mural is now in the museum collection and if this display is viewed from the right angle (this isn't it) almost appears to be driving straight out of it at you.

The Main Street Gallery has been a part of the museum since its beginnings in the 1960s and, in fact, has spilled over into a West Gallery subdivision --- but I still get a kick out of poking around behind the reproduced storefronts and looking at the artifacts inside.

The military gallery is one of the most recently developed areas of the museum, created within space previously used for other displays. This is the east wall of of a really extraordinary display.

There are a sufficient number of displays at Prairie Trails to keep a dedicated looker involved for a full day, at least. Here's a small exampe of the volume in a portion of the West Gallery. The case at left is filled with memorabilia related to George Saling, 1932 Gold Medal Olympian who was killed in a car accident only six months after the Olympics and is buried in the Corydon Cemetery.

Finally, with Matthew Barker looking on, here's a small part of the entrance gallery which contains a beautifully executed overview of Wayne County history, of the sort I wish the Lucas County Historical Society Museum had the space to install.

If you're in Corydon, be sure to stop at the museum for a visit. It's open, as of April 15, from  1-5 p.m. daily and those hours will expand to 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily during June, July and August. Adult admission is $5, or you can join the Wayne County Historical Society for $10 and visit as often as you like.

1 comment:

Ken said...

Thanks for that terrific whirlwind tour of the Pioneer Trails Museum. Much has changed -- and some hasn't -- since I worked there in the summer of 1974. The "Come, Come Ye Saints" exhibit had just been installed, and I couldn't resist pushing the buttons while I ran the vacuum in that area!