The Living Life of a Farm Museum – Now to Organize and Pass It On

Sometimes history is just weird. I spent the better part of the last two months cataloging over 1900 items of a farm museum. At times it was tedious, at times it was interesting, at times it was comical, and it times it was quizzical. When I handed the owner of the museum a flash drive yesterday, I wasn’t quite sure how we would take it. But he was pretty proud that his entire museum was on a stick about 2 inches long that he could stick in his computer.

There were many moments this summer where I really enjoyed cataloging the museum. Those were moments filled with wonder and awe at how people did things in the 1800s by hand. There were many times when I realized just how easy life is today.

Most of the museum is filled with artifacts from the 1920s to the 1940s. During this timeframe, American industrialization and American agriculture went through a major transformative change in how food was produced in this country. The museum I cataloged also contains items from before that era. The bulk of the artifacts contained reflect the change from a simpler time into a world of machinery.

I find it amazing that it used to take over 10 devices to produce seed corn and now it’s down to just a couple. Yesterday, I sat in a small rural town café/diner with the farmer for breakfast. I talked with the farmer about his museum. It is a great collection of artifacts from a bygone era. But it can be more than that.

And as I sat talking with him I wondered if I should say aloud what I was thinking. The museum is organized to some extent, but it could be organized even more. And as I thought that, I wondered if I was going to bite off more than I can chew. And what I meant was should I spend next summer organizing and making exhibits or murals like a real history Museum.

In one moment, I was both an enthusiastic and dreadful. Enthusiastic to make a mural about seed corn and the changes in production. Dreadful, in the fact that I was once again tying up my summer before it even began.
However, what I envision myself doing will allow the farmer to pass on his love of seedcorn history and agricultural history to a younger generation, and allow me to do when I love to do and that is to educate.

At first, I saw myself going to Lowe’s next summer, finding some treated treated plywood (6 foot long by 4 foot wide), and making a timeline mural. I thought four of them ought to do the trick and I could just line up the plywood and create a series of stations where the kids learn about how Ag history is evolved.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realize that the best museum exhibits are the ones that are three-dimensional, interactive, and can stimulate the brain.

It should be interesting to see what I can plan out over the next six months. I didn’t see myself getting into this as much as I did. When I told the farmer about what I got out of it, I was gently surprised at how much passion I had for his museum and the artifacts contained within.  And this is where I come in. My job is going to be to help him share his own passion and pass it along to a younger generation.