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Legacy in final stages with displays
December 11, 2015 Jerry Purvis   

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Photo by Lisa Betz/Gering Citizen Driver Dave Hensen waits for more riders during last Saturday’s High Plains Christmas celebration at Legacy of the Plains Museum. Pictured from left are Jenna Dedic, 3-year-old Graham Luehrs, grandma Suzanne Luehrs, Kathy Ault, 6-year-old Cole Dedic, 9-year-old Emmie Dedic and 7-year-old Kaymen Lusche.

Board members of the Legacy of the Plains Museum have launched the final phase of its capital campaign to finish the museum displays and have them ready for the public by the fall of 2016.

“All the work done so far has been paid for,” said George Schlothauer, capital campaign chairman for museum. “We have some funds left to go toward the exhibits, but with the $400,000 in challenge grants we’ve received, we want to raise another $400,000 to complete the displays and get the museum finished.”

Museum Director Sandy Reddish said they’re pleased with the conceptual designs done so far by Exhibit Design Associates. “By next fall, this will be a 21st Century museum that will really impress the public,”
Reddish said the museum displays will be more than just exhibits on a wall. They will answer the question “So what?” and tell the story of the area and the part those exhibits played.

For example, the museum’s modified vintage Snowcat snow vehicle could be the jumping off point for telling the story of the Blizzard of 1949.

“We want this to be a museum where people will have to come back more than once to see it all,” Reddish said. “There will be something to interest everyone, whether it’s farming equipment, quilts, modes of transportation, or how the community grew. That’s just in the main gallery.”

Schlothauer said moving the soddy home and the Gentry cabin to the museum campus is still in the works and they’re trying to do it right and not hurry the pro. “The combined collections of what used to be the North Platte Valley Museum and the Farm And Ranch Museum are almost overwhelmingly rich,” said Biff Baird, managing partner of Exhibit Design Associates (EDA), who are designing the new gallery. “There are so many wonderful artifacts it almost overwhelms us.”

Baird said the goal of his Estes Park, Colo. based firm is to help people understand what it was like to settle and live here and what life was like through the years.

EDA Creative Director Ian Scott said they developed a thematic framework that organizes the museum’s collections into specific areas. Those areas tell a specific story as chapters in a book, covering trails and transportation, ranching and livestock, dryland and irrigated farming, commerce and trade, and domestic life.

“We’re raising money for a capital campaign to finish this museum,” Schlothauer said, “but we also need the public’s ongoing support in joining our organization to keep it operating. This isn’t a static museum, but an ongoing community project we all need to get behind.”

Baird said the Legacy of the Plains could contribute to the critical mass in tourism, adding to the number of attractions that will keep visitors in the area longer.

“People are looking for multiple experiences when they visit an area,” Baird said. “We look at all the other attractions as complementary in attracting move visitors.”

Schlothauer encouraged the public to visit the museum and learn what has been accomplished so far. After the gallery is completed, museum staff will continue to develop the rest of the campus and other buildings, incorporating them into the overall design.

“We want people to feel a part of what we’re doing because it embraces the entire community,” Schlothauer said.

Legacy of the Plains Museum is planning for a grand opening of the gallery in September of 2016, around the time of the annual Harvest Festival.

Three-year-old Phoebe Behnke makes a birdseed feeder ball for her yard with the help of her mother Cassie Behnke, and grandmother Deanna Hobson. Photo by Lisa Betz/Gering Citizen

Photo by Jerry Purvis/Gering Citizen Biff Baird (right), managing partner with Exhibit Design Associates, along with Creative Director Ian Scott and Legacy of the Plains Museum Director Sandy Reddish, explain some of the new design concepts now underway for the museum gallery.
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