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NewsTribune photo/Tamara Abbey Mendota Museum and Historical Society volunteers Mary Lynn Sondgeroth (left) and Chris Stamberger discover another artifact from Bill Brown’s high school career in Mendota. Brown went on to play professional football with the Chicago Bears for one year before joining the Minnesota Vikings in 1962. The collection is part of a new display highlighting education in Mendota as well as the careers of notable natives who earned national honors in their respective fields.
MENDOTA — When the doors reopen Saturday at the Graves-Hume Museum in downtown Mendota, visitors might not quite recognize the staid displays they had come to expect.
Administrative assistant Deb Brokaw and museum volunteers spent the past two months completely overhauling the displays in the former library. Artifacts have been taken out of storage, catalogued, regrouped and displayed in new ways.
The Carnegie building on Washington Street was once a library where patrons would browse for books. Now they can browse through the city’s history and also get a better idea of how people lived and worked in years past.
One room now has a parlor feel to it that includes items that once entertained families before electricity. Furnishings, an old Victrola and a cottage organ all contribute to the homey atmosphere. A former nook now houses a small sewing room, with donated quilt squares, an old treadle sewing machine and other memorabilia on display.
“We’re trying to make it more pictorial,” Brokaw said.
Museum volunteers have scoured the museum’s storage spaces for artifacts that go beyond the documents and papers that have been collected. Many of those items will make their debut when the museum reopens.
“We’re bringing stuff out of storage that in our time, has never been out,” said volunteer Mary Lynn Sondgeroth.
Like the parlor and the sewing nook, other areas of the museum will be devoted to groupings that tell the story of Mendota’s early days.
A doctor’s office, photos and tools from the city’s early churches, and a downstairs display dedicated to Mendota business and industry have been incorporated into the building.
“We also added a permanent military display,” Brokaw said. “It’s something we felt we were lacking.”
The museum routinely honored veterans in November, but this will be an area that always is available to the public.
Brokaw said volunteers began planning the changes right after the first of the year.
Then they started combing the archives for items that would be more visually appealing to the public.
Brokaw then worked on cataloguing all the items that were sent to storage so they would be easier to find later.
“They typically say that only 10 percent of a museum’s artifacts are on display,” Brokaw said. “Doing this, we’ve discovered that’s very true.”
The museum will be open noon-4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays until mid-December.
Brokaw said those hours also depend on whether they have enough volunteers to staff the building.
For more information, or to volunteer, contact the museum at (815) 539-3373.
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