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North Platte Valley Museum director steps down
June 09, 2011 Jerry Purvis   

Read more by Jerry Purvis

Seated in her favorite display, Barb Netherland looks forward to working as a volunteer

Barb Netherland will soon be stepping down from her position as executive director of the North Platte Valley Museum, but she’s not going far.

“I really want to do some work in our archives,” she said. “It’s in need of some serious attention since I’ve been here. That’s where the real history is in those personal stories and pictures of our past.”

Barb said the area has been fortunate in having several people over the years who believed history mattered and that it was important to preserve. A few of them she mentioned were newspaper publishers A.B. Wood and George Mark and their wives, Estelle Laughlin, Cora Gentry and Goldie Bigsby.

“These people and many others recorded some great, classic stories about our area and some of the people,” she said. “I want to get that information organized for the public. Right now, if someone comes in looking for information, it might take some time for us to find it.”

The museum recently completed cataloging all the information, maps and other artifacts contained in the Paul and Helen Henderson collection. A searchable database is available to help people find the information it contains.

“I’m not vanishing from the museum. I don’t think that will ever happen,” Barb said. “It’s a great place and I’ve enjoyed all the people I’ve worked with. But the archives are where my heart is, so I need to just get over there.”

Barb became director of the North Platte Valley Museum in 2003. During that time, she’s taken an active role in other groups to promote the area – including Platte Valley Attractions and Gering Merchants.

“This has been a boon for the entire community – working together on tourism to build awareness of our local attractions,” she said.

The cohesiveness of groups working together proved its importance in 2007, when the area hosted the national convention of OCTA, the Oregon-California Trails Association.

“We were just a small group, so we pulled in the community to help,” Barb said. “Other groups provided funding, labor and whatever we needed. It was a real joint effort.”

Barb said she’ll especially remember the bus trips they took last summer with students from around the area as they visited historic sites along the Oregon Trail and at Ash Hollow.

“It’s such a rewarding experience to see kids enjoying themselves on the trail while learning the history and really caring about it,” she said. “There are so many sites all around the area and it’s a privilege to live in the middle of all this.”

Barb said in addition to working in the museum’s archives, she’ll still be available to help with activities such as the junior high bus trips to historic sites.

Barb doesn’t have a fixed date of when she’ll step down. She wanted to allow time for the museum board to hire a new director and get him or her familiarized with the museum before she turns over those responsibilities to her successor.
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