Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

My Night at the Museum October 28, 2013

HISTORY BROUGHT TO LIFE pleases me, for I am an interactive learning history type of person.

I often get overwhelmed and impatient reading information in traditional museum displays.

Arriving around 6:30 p.m. Friday for A Night at the Museum at the Rice County Historical Society in Faribault.

Arriving around 6:30 p.m. Friday for A Night at the Museum at the Rice County Historical Society in Faribault.

So I was excited Friday evening to attend the Rice County Historical Society’s first ever A Night at the Museum in which costumed men, women and children played the roles of historical figures. Like Evangeline Whipple, second wife of Bishop Henry Whipple, and Ordinance Sargent Jones, stationed at Ft. Ridgely during the U.S. – Dakota Conflict of 1862:

Role-playing Evangeline Whipple.

Role-playing Evangeline Whipple.

Playing the role of Ordinance Sgt. Jones.

Playing the role of Ordinance Sgt. Jones.

The buckled cloth covering worn by French Mary keeps mud from boots.

The buckled cloth covering worn by French Mary keeps mud from boots.

I spoke with “French Mary” Tepe about her role as a vivandiere with Pennsylvania volunteers in the Civil War. Vivandieres carried a canteen of spirits and more and attended to the sick and wounded. I’d never heard of vivandieres prior to meeting French Mary.

Noah, who volunteers at the library through its youth program, sat in the museum's barbershop chair during A Night at the Museum. in the museum barbershop.

Noah, who volunteers at the library through its youth program, sat in the museum’s barbershop chair.

Noah read a souvenir edition of the Faribault Daily News in an old-time barbershop while Leroy bathed in a second story room above.

Flash cards in the one-room school.

Flash cards in the one-room school.

Mrs. Sweet taught arithmetic in the late 1850s one-room Pleasant Valley School where Noah’s sister, Hannah, along with others, assumed the roles of students.

Playing the old pump organ.

Playing the old pump organ.

Holy Innocents, from the side.

Holy Innocents.

I listened to music played on the pump organ in Holy Innocents Episcopal Church built in 1869 in Cannon City and consecrated by Bishop Whipple.

Mrs. Morris supposedly cooking applesauce.

Mrs. Morris “cooking” applesauce.

Next door I spoke with Mrs. Morris who was “cooking” applesauce in her 1920s kitchen. Except she wasn’t really using the old cookstove. The inviting scent of apples wafted, instead, from apple slices heating in a kettle on a mostly out of sight hotplate. Ingenious.

This multiple engaging of the senses added to the experience. In the old log cabin, built in the mid 1800s by a Scandinavian immigrant in the Nerstrand Big Woods, I savored the yeasty aroma of bread baking—not in the old stove—but rather in a bread machine hidden away. Ingenious.

The setting for A Night at the Museum.

The setting for A Night at the Museum.

Outside, several tiki torches flickered, many snuffed out by the strong early evening breeze. Nearby, visitors gathered around a small campfire to sip apple cider, eat hot dogs and/or munch on cookies.

A barn front forms a backdrop in Harvest Hall, where visitors can learn about the area's agricultural heritage.

A barn front forms a backdrop in Harvest Hall, where visitors can learn about the area’s agricultural heritage.

Horses hooves clopped on the pavement as visitors were treated to a wagon ride around the adjoining county fairgrounds.

Brian Schmidt dressed as a hunter, not to be confused with a mannequin.

Not a scene from Duck Dynasty.

But the most memorable event of the evening for me, and likely Brian Schmidt who serves on the historical society board, occurred inside Heritage Hall. I stopped briefly at a display on outdoor recreational activities in the county and noticed what I assumed to be a camouflaged duck hunter mannequin in a corner. Except he wasn’t. As I walked away, a duck call sounded. Startled, I turned back, peered more closely at the masked face and realized I’d been fooled. By Brian.

A peek at Heritage Hall.

A peek at Heritage Hall.

Excellent. This Night at the Museum was not billed as a Halloween event. But in that moment, for me, it was.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


24 Responses to “My Night at the Museum”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    Oh that was awesome!!! What a great idea to bring the museum to life . I love it!! And especially the duck call that surprised you! He must have been sitting very still to have fooled you.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Oh, yes, Brian was sitting still as a stone. I’m sure I made every minute he sat there worth it just to startle me.

  2. This type of thing would make history more interesting and lively for some [myself included]. A very good idea to engage the public.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Yes, I love this idea and made sure those putting on the event knew how much I enjoyed myself.

      I should also add that kids attending the event collected autographs from the costumed characters and were then awarded a small prize.

  3. Mere Frost Says:

    Museums of any kind thrill me! I am a happy wanderer and prefer to spend lots of time looking over every single detail! My grandfather had an old pump organ and I loved to pull out all the knobs to change it up! I remember liking especially viola and bass!!! Kinda sounded like the Adam’s Family now that I think about it! He also had a player piano that was a blast!!! I’d play like I was an expert…even though it was the paper roll spikes hitting the keys in their orderly fashion! LOL I was into the polka when I was quite young! 😉 My grandpa was a musician. He played the sax, accordian, harmonica, and the piano and organ. He was self-taught. My family loves music! 🙂

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I am quite the opposite of you with museum displays. While I appreciate history, my eyes glaze over when presented with too much info, unless I am really really interested in the subject.

      It sounds like you have wonderful memories connected with music. My family is not at all musical, although my grandfather played the organ apparently.

      • Mere Frost Says:

        I am very detailed oriented. Everything has importance because it is part of the whole! The books I enjoy the most have lots of detail and background information. I like to see all facets of life! And collections to me are intriguing! I am a research hound and if something is missing….I have to search it out to see how it fits in. All the parts!!! Working together! History, anthropology, archeology, paleontology etc…makes me more interested and leads me to something else!LOL

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        You would make a good detective, me thinks.

        I am detailed oriented, too, which seemingly contradicts my inability to focus too long on historical details. I don’t know how to explain that.

      • Mere Frost Says:

        At one time I hoped to be a curator of a museum. My mom talked me into becoming a teacher…I love food in all it’s glory and now I am a farmer! 😉 There is always something new to learn and pursue! You just have to open the doors! So….yes….I have an extreme fondness for museums of any kind! A detective! I guess I am one! LOL

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        From reading your comments, I think you would be happy whatever you chose to do in life. Your positive attitude and enthusiasm are uplifting.

  4. Mere Frost Says:

    You are one too! 😉 I love all you search out and gather! You are quite good at it!!!! And you share it all!

  5. Loving your post – love when history comes alive – great captures:) Happy Week!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Yes, I think living history adds much to the experience of understanding and remembering history.

      • My hubbie and I went to visit the historic, ghost town about 30 minutes from where we live. There are people dressed in period clothing (would not call it a costume, since they really get into it) and even the burro wears red long johns. The musicians are amazing and I love hearing the spurs on the wooden sidewalks. I have not experienced it, but at one bar the ghost will mess with you on the bar stools, especially if you are a pretty lady – ha!

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        This sounds like a great place where history is brought to life. And, yes, “period costume” would have been a better choice of words than costume.

  6. Jackie Says:

    I’m like you Audrey, I like to see & hear…. “interactive learner” I think you called it 🙂 What a fun night this would be. I would have loved the campfire gathering as well sipping on cider and visiting with others, Did you stay warm?

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Friday was the warmest day of the week. So, yes, I stayed warm. You would have enjoyed this event, Jackie. I only wish I had more/better images to share. But darkness is not conducive to photography, especially when I rarely use flash.

  7. Lisa C. Says:

    How fun! We just drove by there this weekend and it was closed. I told my husband that we’ll have to come back and check it out sometime. 🙂

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Unfortunately, the museum is not open on weekends except by special arrangement or during special events. I would like to see it open on some hours on weekends as that’s when a lot of people can visit. Current hours are 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday – Friday.

  8. McGuffy Ann Says:

    This is great! I would love this!

  9. What a great idea! We have a wonderful “Pioneer Village” here in town – they should do something like this!

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