Here are my top five reasons Heritage Hall Museum & Archives is a vital asset to the Freeman community:
1) We represent this community to the world.
To many travelers, our museum is the face of Freeman. We greet hundreds of visitors each year. In 2018, we welcomed guests from 37 states and two foreign countries. During Schmeckfest 2019, roughly 1500 visitors explored our complex.
Our museum offers a glimpse into the life of our community, as well as a look at influences and events that shaped this region and its people. Last summer, a couple visited us on their honeymoon. The groom wanted to introduce his bride to the area he once called home!
2) We preserve the past.
HHM&A is the caretaker of our area history. The artifacts and stories we preserve and care for are portals to the past offering a peek into a world far removed from the hustle and bustle of today. Together they provide us with a sense of place and a collective heritage.
We are tasked to care for this collection so that the artifacts and stories, as well as the understanding and insights they provide, are preserved for future generations. I will always remember the reverence and joy expressed by a visitor to the archives who asked to simply hold the book that her ancestor had carefully written and illustrated in the late 1780s. What a priceless gift this window into our past can be!
3) Our collection inspires wonder.
As one walks through the museum, climbs the steps to the balcony of the Bethel Church, sits in a desk at the country school, or peers into the massive Russian oven in our pioneer home, you can’t help but feel awe and respect for the generations that have come before. These experiences encourage curiosity, empathy and reflection. They help us understand the strength, determination and deep faith of those who have lived here, worked this land, and found both joy and heartache.
Whether your interest is agriculture, business, motorcycles, quilts, airplanes, rocks, music, churches, furniture… there is literally something for everyone. Sometimes though, it is the little things that catch our attention. Last summer, a father and his young son stopped by “just to see the fish” – they enjoy fishing together and like to stop in Freeman simply to see our mounted fish collection!
4) Our collection connects generations.
This is a place where generations can come together to discover and to remember. One young guest asked his grandmother to bring him to the museum. This was his second visit and he wanted to share the experience with her because he knew she’d have stories about the items on display. Another grandmother spent nearly an hour in the country school with her grandchildren, entertaining them with stories of her childhood school days.
The Ludwig Deckert House was once a busy home, central to the lives of the Deckert family. Today, descendants return to our museum complex, anxious to walk in the footsteps of their ancestors and to feel the connection to a generation long gone.
5) Our museum and archives are a rich educational resource.
Museums are an incredible way to learn about history. Two weeks ago, about 40 history students from Vermillion High School toured our museum, connecting their studies of Native Americans and early immigrant cultures to artifacts and stories they could see and hear. This fall, we are partnering with a local elementary classroom for an extensive hands-on learning experience that will involve both on-site research and public presentations. What a great way to utilize a community resource to reach educational curriculum goals!
As the keeper of the stories and records of this area, we care for the collective memories of our community, and our extensive archives and historical library are an unusual asset for a small town. Scholars and researchers have traveled many miles to utilize the resources we preserve and we are constantly adding new items to our holdings.
Every year, we host a variety of public programs and tours that offer new insights and a deeper understanding of the history of this community. All in all, I believe Heritage Hall Museum & Archives is a treasure for this community and once again, I invite you to come and visit, become a member, volunteer your time or expertise to a project, or consider a donation to help us continue the work we do. Visit us on Facebook or check out our brand new website at heritagehallmuseum.com. We hope to see you soon!