Pratt County Historical Museum

Pratt County Historical Museum- Legitimately, this is a great museum.  So many county historical museums just have a bunch of random old things on display.  Now this museum had plenty of old stuff to look at, but it was in an orderly manner, and the museum is much bigger than it appears.  The original museum opened in 1975, but it moved in 1984 when they outgrew the original building.  According to it, “is one of the largest and best curated museums in Kansas.”

One of the first galleries had some remnants from the Barron Theater.  Items included a poster case, seats, a colored spotlight, and a projector that was much more modern than the theater. 

I stood next to the Century projector and tried to remember how to thread the film through the gate house, but no luck.  I guess it slipped my mind in the last 25-30 years.

The newest gallery is the Hartman Gallery.  One man’s collection of Native American pieces.

I read the descriptions, but I think I will just show some of the pictures from this special gallery.

I walked through the door of one gallery, thinking I was alone, and got a bit of a startle when I thought someone was sitting at the judge’s bench.  I quickly realized it was a mannequin, but not just any mannequin. 

It started as a face mask of local judge, Clarence Renner in 1996.  A dentist created the first impression using dental compound.  The dentist’s wife made a plaster bust from the mold.  Judge Renner painted it and a local barber added the hair.  Judge Renner passed away in 1998, but his twin lives on.

Among the artifacts: The Wheat Doll which is given special treatment on roadside America’s website.  The five-foot-tall doll they say, “conjures up some pagan harvest festival.”  

In pagan times the corn doll was believed to have magical powers over the harvest.  The doll was made from the final corn stalks and held in reverence until the next harvest, when a new one was made.  Over the years it became a Christian symbol for good luck.

Two long boardwalks were built to look like the main street of a 19th century Kansas town.  A library, doctor’s office, a service shop, post office, general store, and plenty more businesses line the halls.  The front looks like the façade of many buildings, and you can walk in the door and look at the displays. 

We were told by the museum employee that a group of retired farmers and ranchers built all the facades several years ago.  They look sharp and really add a unique touch to the museum. 

My favorite room was the radio station with plenty of classic televisions and radios.

There is an upstairs to the museum.  It is dedicated mostly to the Miss Kansas pageant, which is held every year in Pratt. 

Pratt has hosted the Miss Kansas Pageant since 1955.  There were pictures of each winner, and many of them displayed their dresses. I also spotted a cool pair of shoes paying tribute to Kansas’ aviation history.  

It reminded me of the Miss America statue on the campus of Oklahoma City University dedicated to the school’s three national winners.

One thing I thought was fantastic was the individual collections that were donated to the museum.  Let me explain, there was a room full of vintage toasters and waffle makers.  They were all part of one Pratt man’s personal collection.  Something that person spent years collecting.  Other collections included glass, fans, and miniature farm equipment.  The man who donated the toy collection died two days after making the move.

I have often thought individual collections would make a great museum.  I would call it. “The Museum of You.”  I was inspired by the estate sale at my grandparent’s house.  My grandmother spent years collecting Hull pottery and glass baskets.  When she died, the kids and grandkids were given the option to pick one out to keep. The rest of them were sold off one at a time.  Breaking up the collection, she devoted her life to accumulating.  I would love to have a museum that receives the entire collection.  Does the history and displays them for future generations?  I think a bio of the collector would be a nice tribute to the years spent on the collection.  So, what would I leave to the museum?  I have Star Wars stuff, tons of Smurfs and match box cars.  But I think I would donate my shot glass collection.  With over 3,000 shots, it would be eye-catching to say the least.

Jeremy and I showed up with about half an hour to see the place.  We did not get to spend the time we wanted and agreed that we would need to return and allow more time for browsing.

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