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Happy 50th birthday North Platte Valley Museum!
October 20, 2011 Jerry Purvis   

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Photo by Jerry Purvis/Gering Citizen Questers members (from left) Sheila Miller, LaRita Van Boskirk and Pat Lind move documents from the Paul and Helen Henderson Collection into archival boxes.

Since 1961, the North Platte Valley Museum has been telling the story of our community – and the staff will celebrate their 50th anniversary on Oct. 23 from 1 – 4 p.m. at the corner of 11th and J Streets in Gering. And the public is invited to attend.

In preparation for the event, members of three local Questers groups were at the museum last Friday. Their job was to transfer the historical documents of the Paul and Helen Henderson Collection into archive-quality document and map containers.

During their lives, the Hendersons, who lived in Bridgeport, collected extensive examples of historical documents, maps of area landmarks and long forgotten ghost towns. Ten years ago, the collection was donated to the North Platte Valley Museum after years of storage at the University of Wyoming.

Project coordinator Jan Van Newkirk said the local #1346 Questers group received a grant from the state group to purchase the archive-quality containers. The documents were originally stored in boxes that might have been damaging to fragile paper.

“For the anniversary party, we’re planning to take people on a tour of the archive,” Van Newkirk said. “Researchers have come in here and found information they couldn’t find anywhere else. The Henderson Collection is one of a kind.”

The Questers is an international study club founded in 1944. Its major objectives are to stimulate an appreciation of antiques and their collection; and to encourage the preservation and restoration of existing historical landmarks.

Museum director Katie Bradshaw said access to the archive is limited to protect the artifacts, so people don’t know the extent of available materials for research. But some of the materials often come out for public display.

“Last August, during the 95th anniversary of the National Park Service, we had a special display of antique maps,” she said. “Most museums have only about 10 to 20 percent of their artifacts on display at any given time. The rest is in their archives for research and future displays.”

In addition to archive tours, the museum’s birthday party will feature kids’ party games, “living mannequins” and refreshments.
At 3 p.m., the approximate 40 gourds that were decorated by local artistic people will be auctioned to help generate funding for the museum.

“We want to generate some excitement about the museum and get people involved so we can continue to tell the story of our history to future generations,” Bradshaw said.
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