A petting zoo for historians
HEBRON, N.D. — Exploring the many rooms in the Hebron museum is like taking a step back in time. Each room is unique and gives the people who visit a sense of what life was like during the various time periods represented.
The Hebron Museum was established in 1979 to showcase the town's local history from the early days of when the first pioneers settled in the area. The success of the museum is due to state and local support, along with a dedicated curator, Henry Mische, who received the Excellence in Local History Award from the State Historical Society of North Dakota in 2015 for his hard work and extensive knowledge of the local history.
Robin Reynolds, secretary of the museum board and a professor at Dickinson State University, has been on the museum board for about nine years. Mische is her neighbor and he asked her to help at the museum and serve on the board. She said Mische has been a great asset and help.
All of the items at the museum are donated by local families who wish to pass along items of loved ones or things they feel have important value to the story of Hebron.
"The museum is getting very full," Reynolds said. "Now our donations are reviewed because our museum is getting very full."
She said she enjoys learning more about the place where she lives.
"I enjoy lending a hand in the community," Reynolds said. "I believe in the merits of volunteer work. There's country living and there's big-city living, but I like small-town living."
Small towns in North Dakota are shrinking, Reynolds said, which is why it is important for people to be active in those towns.
"The effort to keep things vital and to keep some of the activities going is increasingly difficult in the churches and in civic organizations," she said. "But you can't do everything."
While getting kids involved in history and museums can be a bit difficult, Reynolds said doing hands-on projects can help spur a child's interest.
"Let them operate different things, let them touch things," she said. "It's like a petting zoo for historians."
The Hebron Museum has a room filled with nearly 600 dolls from across the world that were donated by Mische's wife to the museum. There is also an entire mural painted by local high-schoolers that fills a large wall in another room. Behind each item in the museum, there is a story and family who took the time to donate it.
Reynolds said her favorite part of the museum is the art section. An old pioneer home is attached to the museum. Inside the home are various items from the time period; for example, large winter coats made of fur and uniforms of the old baseball team. There's also a stone oven and many other items. Reynolds said the home is another one of her favorites.
"I don't know, that musty smell and antique, beautiful cotton clothing," she said. "... I can't say the tractors or the dolls or the machinery catches my attention because I didn't grow up with that stuff."
North Dakota is home to many historical sights and the summer weather allows for families to get out and learn about the state's heritage, said Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., who visited the museum in July.
"I just love North Dakota, from the rugged Badlands where Teddy Roosevelt established his ranch to the Native American villages along the state's rivers," Heitkamp said in a release. "North Dakota's rich heritage is on display all across the state and it offers unique and interesting experiences for everyone. I'm always excited to visit and learn more about our past when I have the chance to chat with the North Dakotans who have dedicated their time and knowledge to operate the many museums and sites. I encourage all North Dakotans to take advantage of the summer months and get out to explore more of our great state."
North Dakota is home to many historical sites such as Native American villages, military forts and pioneer museums that have been preserved, protected and made easily accessible for the public's enjoyment. Families have an opportunity to take advantage of the many sites across the state by planning a day trip or even incorporating it into a summer vacation, while parents can show their children these historic sites they may have visited when they were young.
Small-town museums are important to little towns, such as Hebron, because of the amount of care that goes into them.
"It's the care of the forefathers and mothers and what they had to endure," Reynolds said. "Henry tells this story of the hottest day on record here. It was in 1936 and it was 121 degrees and one of their horses died. You can read that in a book, but you can also listen to a 95-year-old tell that because he was 15 when it happened."
To find a museum near you check out history.nd.gov/otherorganizations.html. The site has a PDF flipbook of nearly every museum in North Dakota.