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Museum votes to proceed with merger
January 20, 2012 Jerry Purvis   

Read more by Jerry Purvis

Photo by Lisa Betz/Gering Citizen
North Platte Valley member Jim Collister and museum director Katie Bradshaw (middle) count votes while NPVM board member Judie Moorehouse recording the count Thursday after a vote to proceed with plans to co-locate the museum with FARM.

By a sizeable margin, voting members of the North Platte Valley Museum (NPVM) agreed to proceed with a proposal to move into an expanded building that would include the Farm And Ranch Museum (FARM).

The vote was 53 in favor and five opposed after almost 90 minutes of discussion last Thursday evening at the Gering Civic Center.

“I believe our historical association always has the best interests of the museum in our decisions,” said NPVM board member Deanna Zweifel. “The museum has to move forward in order to survive and prosper in the future.”

Museum treasurer Sheila Johns said the museum has been losing money for years. In 2011 alone, they lost just over $13,000. In 2008, the loss was just over $20,000.

“I can assure you this museum is run on an extremely tight budget,” Johns told the group. “It’s our volunteers that enable us to keep the museum open, but we can’t continue to operate as we have indefinitely.”

The proposal under consideration that night would move NPVM west to the current FARM site near the Scotts Bluff National Monument. A 12,000 square foot addition would be built to house the North Platte Valley Museum collection, including the priceless historic documents that make up the Paul and Helen Henderson Collection.

NPVM director Katie Bradshaw said there is a similar amount of space available for them in the current FARM library to house the Henderson collection. Humidity in the room will also be monitored to help preserve the documents.

Using $50 a square foot as an estimate, the addition, along with a new storage building for tractors and a renovated entrance area, would cost in the range of $816,000.

One of the major questions was where the money would come from. The current NPVM building has been appraised at $230,000 and the City of Gering is interested in purchasing it for office space for the Parks Department.

Karen Anderson spoke on behalf of the Rotary Club in saying that group would be interested in supporting the effort; and Maurie Deines, representing Gering Kiwanis, said they would also support the venture.

Museum member Dr. Don Gentry, whose family donated the Gentry cabin display at the museum, said they would be willing to move the display to FARM at the family’s expense. Bradshaw later said a number of businesses have come forward unsolicited to offer their help in making the move possible.

Other funding sources have been identified as City of Gering Keno funds, the Oregon Trail Community Foundation and Scotts Bluff County Tourism.

With the vote to proceed, working committees will be formed, legal research will be done as to how the two boards will be governed, a business plan will be developed, and a communications plan will be developed to keep the public informed on how the process is going.
Members and interested community members are encouraged to visit.

“I was really excited about the size of the vote,” said NPVM board president Jodi Ruzicka. “The members are putting a lot of trust in us. But this is just the beginning.”

Bradshaw, the museum director, said the two museums will now be able to tell a complete story about the development of the area, from Native American history to the early westward migration, and from the settlement of communities to how agriculture was done in the past.

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