Exploring the Past in Siouxland, Mead Cultural Education Center, Yankton, SD

21 May

The Mead Cultural Education Center, a former mental institution for women, now houses the Dakota Territorial Museum under the auspices of the Yankton County Historical Society in Yankton, SD Saturday, April 6, 2019.(Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Exploring history in Siouxland can be a fun exercise and the chance to learn about the region and see something I have not encountered previously. Recently I visited the Mead Cultural Education Center with some photography students from a Lifelong Learning class. It’s a grand old building and previously as an asylum for women who were considered insane and whose families did not want them living at home.

A grand marble staircase greets visitors as they enter the Mead Cultural Education Center, a former mental institution for women, which now houses the Dakota Territorial Museum under the auspices of the Yankton County Historical Society in Yankton, SD Saturday, April 6, 2019.(Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The Mead Cultural Education Center was a former women’s mental institution and will now house the Dakota Territorial Museum and other historical artifacts after a renovation under the auspices of the Yankton County Historical Society in Yankton, SD Saturday, April 6, 2019.(Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The Yankton County Historical Society is housed in the facility and plans over a period of time will include a number of historical exhibits about the area including the Dakota Territorial Museum that was located in another area of Yankton.

Currently an exhibit of the Lewis and Clark Expedition is up and running with a fairly extensive look at that group’s trip through the local area.

The Mead Cultural Education Center, a former mental institution for women, showcases the history of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and now houses the Dakota Territorial Museum under the auspices of the Yankton County Historical Society in Yankton, SD Saturday, April 6, 2019.(Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The Mead Cultural Education Center, a former mental institution for women, showcases the history of the Lewis and Clark Expedition in a unique way and also houses the Dakota Territorial Museum under the auspices of the Yankton County Historical Society in Yankton, SD Saturday, April 6, 2019.(Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Some displays with area history is set up on the ground floor of he Mead Cultural Education Center, a former women’s mental institution and will house the Dakota Territorial Museum under the auspices of the Yankton County Historical Society in Yankton, SD Saturday, April 6, 2019.(Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Some displays with area history is set up on the ground floor of he Mead Cultural Education Center, a former women’s mental institution and will house the Dakota Territorial Museum under the auspices of the Yankton County Historical Society in Yankton, SD Saturday, April 6, 2019.(Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But while the class was there the group got a look in yet unfinished areas where future exhibits will be showcased and other offices housing various local organizations will be located as well as seeing some stored historical items waiting for space to be displayed.

Camille Swift, office manager for the Mead Cultural Education Center, gets animated as she gives some background during a short tour. The center also now houses the Dakota Territorial Museum under the auspices of the Yankton County Historical Society in Yankton, SD Saturday, April 6, 2019.(Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Camille Swift, office manager for the Mead Cultural Education Center, standing in background, gives a historical account and describes the restoration of the building during a short tour. The center also houses the Dakota Territorial Museum under the auspices of the Yankton County Historical Society in Yankton, SD Saturday, April 6, 2019.(Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Camille Swift, office manager for the Mead Cultural Education Center, not seen, gives background context and describes the current restoration project underway during a short tour. The center also houses the Dakota Territorial Museum under the auspices of the Yankton County Historical Society in Yankton, SD Saturday, April 6, 2019.(Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Records and other historical artifacts are stored in rooms as the Mead Cultural Education Center, a former mental institution for women undergoes a restoration under the auspices of the Yankton County Historical Society in Yankton, SD Saturday, April 6, 2019.(Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Once completed the Education Center will give a nice look into the history of the area and Yankton’s role in the history of the Dakota Territories. Yankton was the first territorial government seat when the Territories were settled but then later lost out to Pierre. It will be easy to spend a few hours learning about the past and in a space that has found new purpose for the future.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

 

 

Paying Respect in Siouxland, Omaha Valley Cemetery, Ponca, NE

19 May

The Omaha Valley Cemetery sits atop a couple hillsides off of Highway 77 South near Homer, NE Saturday, April 20, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As I drive about the Siouxland region I like to visit cemeteries that I come across. I find that for these rural and small town graveyards some of the earliest occupants were laid to rest in the mid to late 1800’s. Pioneers the majority of them traveling months to reach a new place and start a new life. Most likely by wagon train as the railroad system for the young country had not yet united the east and west.

The dearly departed of the Omaha Valley Cemetery have nice vistas as the cemetery sits atop a couple of hillsides off of Highway 77 South near Homer, NE Saturday, April 20, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Early settlers are buried in the Omaha Valley Cemetery which sits off of Highway 77 South near Homer, NE Saturday, April 20, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Without delving into area archives or doing an online search, I will never know the story about any of these early settlers, or even their descendants. I just like to pay my respect for the chances they took in settling what at that time was still wilderness to a point and creating a life with their blood, sweat and tears, and sometimes life.

The Omaha Valley Cemetery off of Highway 77 South near Homer, NE Saturday, April 20, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Occupying a couple of hilltops the Omaha Valley Cemetery sits off of Highway 77 South near Homer, NE Saturday, April 20, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Some of the rural cemeteries reside on a hill, giving the occupants and their visitors a chance to view the countryside around them. What the photographs cannot tell visitors to my blog is the sound of the leaves rustling as the wind blows, scents arriving and leaving, birds chirping and just enjoying the day. A place to stop, ponder and reflect and say a little prayer for the departed and for friends and relatives still toiling on this earth. Just taking a moment to be still, listen to the sounds of silence and enjoy before jumping back into life and the race most of us must run.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Early burials can be found in the Omaha Valley Cemetery off of Highway 77 South near Homer, NE Saturday, April 20, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Sitting on a couple of hilltops the Omaha Valley Cemetery is off of Highway 77 South near Homer, NE Saturday, April 20, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Serendipity in Siouxland, Sunset in Sioux City

17 May

A ferris wheel at the Midwest Rides Carnival in the parking lot of the Southern Hills Mall is silhouetted by a setting sun, Friday, May 10, 2019 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes life can be good to you. I was working on a project recently in Siouxland and had finished and stopped by a grocery store on my way home. As I was coming out I saw the sky and the beautiful sunset that was occurring. There is also a carnival that comes to Sioux City every year and sets up nearby. It’s pretty compact squeezed into a parking lot area but I couldn’t have positioned the sun any better while trying to not include too many other carnival items in the frame. And simply worked the light and the ferris wheel until the sun disappeared, well, and my camera battery died.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

 

History in Siouxland not Always Evident, Yankton, SD

15 May

A former dairy barn near the Mead Cultural Education Center that will house the Dakota Territorial Museum and other historical artifacts of the area under the auspices of the Yankton County Historical Society in Yankton, SD Saturday, April 6, 2019.(Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Early psychiatric institutions in many states operated farms and dairy operations to feed its “patients” and to generate money to cover the cost of running a facility for those who needed help or were beyond the ability of families to cope. The Yankton (SD) State Hospital in Siouxland began operating in 1880. Although I couldn’t find any online information there is what appears to be a dairy or livestock barn on the grounds that is no longer in use. I learned from other places I have lived that it was common practice for these farms to operate with help from the patients. This barn looks to be relatively in good condition and I wonder what stories could be learned of its past.

an inside look of a former dairy barn near the Mead Cultural Education Center that will house the Dakota Territorial Museum and other historical artifacts of the area under the auspices of the Yankton County Historical Society in Yankton, SD Saturday, April 6, 2019.(Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

In today’s society these kinds of operations are no longer needed, although it gave those patients who worked a sort of pride in helping be productive for the “community” in which they lived. Somewhere though I have read where other businesses found these institutions to be unfair competitors impinging on their own market share and were not really concerned that work was beneficial for patients confined there. So much history and sometimes so little information.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A self-portrait at a former dairy barn near the Mead Cultural Education Center that will house the Dakota Territorial Museum and other historical artifacts of the area under the auspices of the Yankton County Historical Society in Yankton, SD Saturday, April 6, 2019.(Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Winter and Spring Effects in Siouxland, Vermillion, SD

13 May

The Vermillion River seen along the bike path near Cotton Park in Vermillion, SD Saturday, April 13, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The Vermillion River near Cotton park flooded earlier this spring as seen from debris left in trees along the bank. This river and other waterways flooded when a still frozen snow-covered ground couldn’t absorb rain that fell in Vermillion, SD Saturday, April 13, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

On an outing in Vermillion, SD with a Lifelong Learning class in photography that I teach we ventured along the Vermillion River that runs below Vermillion, SD. It’s like a lot of other rivers and normally provides a nice walk on a bike path near a park in the community. I have visited this walking a path a few times and I was struck by some fundamental changes, like sand being scooped off the walkways so people could pass through. This I guess occurred when the river ran high with rains and the ground still frozen from winter last spring. In only a couple of days or more sand was swept from the riverbed and deposited outside of the banks. But it will take more time to return the sand that accumulated.

Photo Safari students from Western Iowa Tech walk along the bike path near Cotton Park that was cleared of sand from a flooding Vermillion River seen in Vermillion, SD Saturday, April 13, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Erosion of the bank of the Vermillion River along the bike path near Cotton Park in Vermillion, SD Saturday, April 13, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

One can also see new erosion from the rushing river water and how eventually it will affect paths that run alongside it and provide enjoyment and a respite for locals. Nature can be beautifully destructive at times. I was also amazed at how high some river detritus I saw along the path as the water spread out of its banks and ran high.

 

A wooden bridge gives a good vantage point at Cotton Park in Vermillion, SD Saturday, April 13, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And that’s what I like about visiting and revisiting local areas because they change. Sometimes changes that we as people don’t find beneficial but for me it’s the exploring and looking and just being outside finally with warmer temperatures even though nature sometimes reminds us that we are just along for the ride.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Fascination Doorways in Siouxland, Beresford and Little Sioux

11 May

Shapes and angles during an outing of the Lifelong Learning Photo Safari class in Beresford, SD Saturday, April 27, 2019. (Jerry L Mennenga©)

I like doorways. No matter where one goes in Siouxland, or any place else, one will encounter a doorway. And while there are grand ones to be found and admired, it’s the quirky and offbeat ones that attract my attention. And sometimes you can find them juxtaposed to other objects within a space and “redefine” your visual look of them. Most times though they are just straight forward as doorways but quirky.

Doorways and spring snow can be found during an outing for the Lifelong Learning Photo Safari class in Beresford, SD Saturday, April 27, 2019. (Jerry L Mennenga©)

Not all doors lead to other spaces though, unless they are dimensional or one has an active imagination. Maybe too many episodes of the Twilight Zone as a child.

A different kind of doorway is found along with a spring’s dusting of snow during an outing of the Lifelong Learning Photo Safari class in Beresford, SD Saturday, April 27, 2019. (Jerry L Mennenga©)

But doorways are fascinating. Leading a person to another space and a place to explore beyond that doorway if it’s possible to get within. And there an imagination can be worthwhile as one conjures up what possibilities can be found just on the other side.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A doorway without steps seen during a Spring Photo Safari outing in Little Sioux , Iowa. (Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying the Light in Siouxland, Vermillion, SD

9 May

This particular spring seems to just be an extension of winter in Siouxland. Grey skies, blustery, rain, which is better than snow and easier to scoop. Only intermittently does it seem that the suns peeks through the clouds, and some days I just want to photograph in sunshine.

Light and shadow on the campus of the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, SD Saturday, April 13, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It makes it much easier to record light and shade moments and to see more definition. Sunshine also helps make photos seem punchier, although for some subjects, cloudy skies are much better to photograph under because soft light renders those subjects in a more appealing manner. I just have to remind myself when summer is in full swing that I enjoy photographing light and shade and not wistfully wish for a cloudy, overcast day for photographing some subjects.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Cloud cover on the campus of the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, SD Saturday, April 13, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Sunshine hitting the campus of the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, SD Saturday, April 13, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

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