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Storytelling in B&W and a Little Imagination, Durham Museum, Omaha, NE

19 Jul

A former Union Pacific railway station, a statue pf a departing passenger from days gone by seen at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE Thursday, May 26, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes when out and about wandering Siouxland and elsewhere, one can see something that sparks a little imagination and wondering on the part of the viewer. I think Black and White imagery helps tell a story a little better at times that color.

The Durham Museum was formerly a Union Pacific railway station and its heyday was before, during and after the 1930’s and 1940’s, especially during WWII. Information at the museum along with photographs show a great movement of people during the Second World War passing through the station. And so there are some statuary that depicts some of the history of the former railway station.

A former Union Pacific railway station, a statue pf a departing passenger from days gone by while two lovers sit tight in the background seen at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE Thursday, May 26, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

When I have looked at the above the statue I wonder if this gentleman is a traveling salesman or maybe a jilted lover whose dearest’s heart was won by a new suitor seated with her in the background. And so the young takes his belongings packed into a single suitcase and leaves.

A sculpted piece at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE Thursday, May 26, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The sculpted piece I believe was something on display and with meaning of the times when the station was built. The directional light creates an interesting effect and definitely gives a viewer a chance to study the statue which I believe is of a railway worker, judging by the wrench in the hand.

I enjoy B&W photography and probably don’t utilize it enough when out shooting and exploring Siouxland. For me it depends on the light and how it encapsulates a subject and sets is apart from its surrounding. And I sometimes miss having a darkroom, and the ability to create an image first on film, then adding to it via the actual developing process to give and take away contrast depending on how one processed the film and with what developer was used, and finally through the printing process. Using a “hard” paper that really accentuates the light and shadows or a softer paper with more grey tones appearing. The one watched while the image appeared in the developing tray coming to life and fulfilling, hopefully, the vision one had in mind when creating the image on film.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A Union Pacific railway sign hanging at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE Thursday, May 26, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Learning and Understanding History in Siouxland, Nelson Mandela, The Official Exhibition, Durham Museum, Omaha, NE

19 Jun

Short films about Nelson Mandela. Nelson Mandela : The Official Exhibition, is his life and pursuit for a free South Africa, currently at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE Thursday, May 26, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I wouldn’t exactly call myself a history buff, but I do like learning and attending presentations and exhibition in and around Siouxland where I can learn something new, or expand upon something I am familiar with but not necessarily know the entire story, or rest of the story as radioman Paul Harvey used to exclaim.

I recently visited the Nelson Mandela: The Officials Exhibition at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE. It is slated to finish in early July. I am aware of who Mandela is/was and mostly remember him as a person who spent a considerable amount of time in prison only because he wanted fellow South African citizens to enjoy a free life away from the “colonial rule” that Afrikaners imposed on them after the Dutch colonized the country to its benefits a large swath of the country in the 1600’s.

Photographs, artifacts and short films give a history about Nelson Mandela. Nelson Mandela : The Official Exhibition, is his life and pursuit for a free South Africa, currently at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE Thursday, May 26, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Photographs, artifacts and short films give a history about Nelson Mandela. Nelson Mandela : The Official Exhibition, is his life and pursuit for a free South Africa, currently at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE Thursday, May 26, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The exhibit takes a deep dive into the man’s past, history and what led him to become the leader to free his fellow citizens and help them obtain the rights so long denied them by early occupiers, often mainly by force. The reading was fascinating but also the images that accompanies the exhibit showing a young Mandela who actually spent most of his life out of public view. Firstly, hiding from those who wanted to harm him, and later, in prison, after defying the ruling administration of the country and encouraging his fellow countrymen to stand up and seek their freedom.

Nelson Mandela : The Official Exhibition, about his life and pursuit for a free South Africa, currently at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE Thursday, May 26, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Photographs, artifacts and short films give a history about Nelson Mandela. Nelson Mandela : The Official Exhibition, is his life and pursuit for a free South Africa, currently at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE Thursday, May 26, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Part of the exhibity with photographs, artifacts and short films give a history about Nelson Mandela and representation of cell blocks. Nelson Mandela : The Official Exhibition, is his life and pursuit for a free South Africa, currently at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE Thursday, May 26, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I personally like history, more so when I learn something new and its purpose served the greater good and the “good guys” won. Some days during in recent years, I just have to wonder. Those who say they are the good guys and winning, are a bit suspect.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Photographs, artifacts and short films give a history about Nelson Mandela. Nelson Mandela : The Official Exhibition, is his life and pursuit for a free South Africa, currently at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE Thursday, May 26, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Photographs, artifacts and short films give a history about Nelson Mandela. Nelson Mandela : The Official Exhibition, is his life and pursuit for a free South Africa, currently at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE Thursday, May 26, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Photographs, artifacts and short films give a history about Nelson Mandela. Nelson Mandela : The Official Exhibition, is his life and pursuit for a free South Africa, currently at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE Thursday, May 26, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Photograph of Nelson Mandela with Zelda la Grange, formerly a private secretary of his during he last remaining years, seen at the Nelson Mandela : The Official Exhibition, about his life and pursuit for a free South Africa, currently at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE Thursday, May 26, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

History in Siouxland, Building and Expanding, Sioux City Railroad Museum, Sioux City

28 May

Information and display about the work at the rail yard in Sioux City that operated as a repair yard seen at the Sioux City Railroad Museum Saturday, April 16, 2022 in Sioux City, Iowa. Also seen is a new exhibit not completed concerning the Holocaust that took place in Europe during the Second World War. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Some new exhibits are being prepped for opening sometime down the road that expands on the history of the Sioux City Railroad Museum which was a functioning repair yard servicing steam and diesel locomotives and repairing rail cars for 65 years.

As the museum has grown it is expanding its educational framework and in the last year added actors who portray “real characters” who lived and worked in the rail yard between 1918 and 1981. And now new exhibits will explore more in-depth the work done at the yard as well as information regarding the Holocaust that took place in Europe during WWII.

The inside of a boxcar of a new exhibit not completed concerning the Holocaust that took place in Europe during the Second World War seen at the Sioux City Railroad Museum Saturday, April 16, 2022 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Information and display about the work at the rail yard in Sioux City that operated as a repair yard seen at the Sioux City Railroad Museum Saturday, April 16, 2022 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A new engine has been added to the mix and some excavation was also occurring on the museum grounds as more information about the repair yard is discovered and catalogued for inclusion in the future. History is so soon forgotten it seems these days. Transitory and fleeting. But what is most times forgotten seems oft repeated.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A boxcar for a new exhibit not completed concerning the Holocaust that took place in Europe during the Second World War seen at the Sioux City Railroad Museum Saturday, April 16, 2022 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A new “fixer upper engine” at the Sioux City Railroad Museum Saturday, April 16, 2022 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The 1355 steam engine seen at the Sioux City Railroad Museum Saturday, April 16, 2022 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Anticipating Performance Art in Siouxland, Sioux City Railroad Museum, Sioux City

6 May
A new stage area has been constructed at the Sioux City Railroad Museum Saturday, April 16, 2022 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A new stage area has been constructed at the Sioux City Railroad Museum Saturday, April 16, 2022 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

While recently visiting the Sioux City Railroad Museum in Siouxland I noticed a number of changes that included outdoor performance spaces. The Railroad Museum has begun shifting its focus the last few years to sharing history about the former railroad repair facility as it continues to excavate and learn more about this important juncture and service provided to the rail industry.

A outdoor seating area at the Sioux City Railroad Museum Saturday, April 16, 2022 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

What appears to be a refreshment stand is set up at a location at the Sioux City Railroad Museum Saturday, April 16, 2022 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

According to a statement on the museum’s website: “The 31.61-acre Milwaukee Railroad Shops Historic District encompasses the former Sioux City Engine Terminal and Car Repair Shops of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railway.

The complex was constructed between 1916 – 1918, opened 1918 by the railroad’s motive power and engineering departments. The facility served as a “divisional” terminal for servicing steam and diesel locomotives and repairing rail cars for 65 years until its closure and abandonment in 1981, when the railroad was insolvent and in receivership.”

Within the last year local actors have been portraying actual characters and people who formerly worked at the facility. The actors perform short monologues which reference their particular job and connection to the service facility or the railroad industry. Although, as it occurred during the Great Depression of the 1930’s, an occasional hobo shows up and talks about “riding the rails” during that time period while looking for work and basic survival. Life on the road isn’t always an influencer’s dream as the depression era affected hundreds of thousands if not more people.

So it will be interesting and fun to to see the new performance spaces function as well as some “new attractions” mimicking aspects of a railroad depot stop anywhere U.S.A.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A new boarding station for the miniature rail line at the Sioux City Railroad Museum Saturday, April 16, 2022 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A new passenger boarding station for the miniature rail line at the Sioux City Railroad Museum Saturday, April 16, 2022 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A new stage area has been constructed at the Sioux City Railroad Museum Saturday, April 16, 2022 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying Art Near Siouxland, and Just Seeing, Joslyn Musem, Omaha, NE

18 Apr
A security person walks through a painting gallery section at the Joslyn Museum in Omaha, NE Thursday, March 24, 2022. The museum will close until sometime in 2024 according to its website as an addition is added. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I enjoy walking about art museums for the obvious reasons. Those in Siouxland and those that are located near the area. The chance to look at and ponder what lies before one’s eyes whether you agree with or even like what you see. But the creator of the piece saw something, and a museum displaying it saw worth in the acquisition to share with the public.

The painting of the woman and cat at the Joslyn Museum in Omaha, NE Thursday, March 24, 2022. The subject’s eyes in the painting seem to follow visitors as they walk by. The museum will close until sometime in 2024 according to its website as an addition is added. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Walking about the museum’s various galleries and public areas can also test the visitor’s “seeing” and the architecture involved to pique an interest. And whether one sees the entire scene or just a detail helps shape perception on the part of the viewer and can in turn help develop one’s eye.

The last look at the fountain and formal entrance at the Joslyn Museum in Omaha, NE Thursday, March 24, 2022. The museum will close until sometime in 2024 according to its website as an addition is added. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The fountain in a main entrance at the Joslyn Museum in Omaha, NE Thursday, March 24, 2022. The museum will close until sometime in 2024 according to its website as an addition is added. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And whether one wants to record, or photograph, what one sees and how one sees something can also be an exercise to “practice seeing” and later look at again and determine if what was recorded is what was intended. Exercising one’s vision to help refine a way of seeing is not a bad thing. As an instructor once told me, painters have a blank canvas to add elements too to create what they envision. A photographer has a lot of stuff in their field of view and then must eliminate or distill down the image that is envisioned to share with others as well as what photographically speaks to that individual.

Walking through a museum there are so many ways to interpret what is there by the use of space or light or depth, shapes, lines and angles. Making a conscious effort to align these in what an individual might believe is a telling image.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A different perspective of a piece of art work at the Joslyn Museum in Omaha, NE Thursday, March 24, 2022. The museum will close until sometime in 2024 according to its website as an addition is added. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A different perspective of a piece of art work at the Joslyn Museum in Omaha, NE Thursday, March 24, 2022. The museum will close until sometime in 2024 according to its website as an addition is added. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Seeing Changes in Siouxland, Joslyn Museum, Omaha, NE

31 Mar
Construction is underway for an addition at the Joslyn Museum in Omaha, NE Thursday, March 24, 2022. The museum will be closed until sometime in 2024 according to its website. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Changes are underway at an art museum in Omaha, NE, The Joslyn Museum. The collection of artwork there is amazing to see as are the various traveling exhibits the museum brings to share with its visitors. Traveling throughout Siouxland one has an opportunity to enjoy world class art in a number of places, and sometimes those places need a refresh to adjust to a new era and planning for their own future.

Construction is underway for an addition at the Joslyn Museum in Omaha, NE Thursday, March 24, 2022. The museum will be closed until sometime in 2024 according to its website. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A small school group checks out a glass exhibit by artist David Gilhooly at the Joslyn Museum in Omaha, NE Thursday, March 24, 2022. The museum will close until sometime in 2024 according to its website as an addition is added. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Construction is seen underway for an addition from inside the Joslyn Museum in Omaha, NE Thursday, March 24, 2022. The museum will be closed until sometime in 2024 according to its website. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Myself and some friends were not alone the particular day we visited. School groups, families and other small groups and individuals moved about the exhibit rooms enjoying the art and sculpted pieces on display. A nice to see scenes depicted centuries ago by famous, and maybe not so famous artists but all worth the time to view, maybe sit and contemplate what the is there. In a museum time becomes somewhat irrelevant and for good reason. There is no need to hurry, but better to linger and savor and enjoy the beauty before one’s eyes.

Artwork at the Joslyn Museum in Omaha, NE Thursday, March 24, 2022. The museum will close until sometime in 2024 according to its website as an addition is added. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A family check out a painting at the Joslyn Museum in Omaha, NE Thursday, March 24, 2022. The museum will close until sometime in 2024 according to its website as an addition is added. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A visitor checks out artwork at the Joslyn Museum in Omaha, NE Thursday, March 24, 2022. The museum will close until sometime in 2024 according to its website as an addition is added. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The museum will be closing this May for a couple of years according to information on its website. And I wanted one last change to wander and browse the fine art and architectural sights within the building. A little selfishly, I enjoy visiting the museum on hot summer days. When it’s unbearable to be outdoors, the dim lighting and wonderful works to view was always a respite from the day’s oppressive nature. A sanctuary to just sit and enjoy beauty and all that is offered.

Change and the future sometimes requires one to learn patience and to anticipate what new experiences the Joslyn Museum will offer its patrons and visits in the years to come.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Construction is underway for an addition at the Joslyn Museum in Omaha, NE Thursday, March 24, 2022. The museum will be closed until sometime in 2024 according to its website. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Points of Interest in Small Towns around Siouxland, Luverne, MN

3 Mar
The Hinkly House sits on a street just outside of the downtown Luverne, MN Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

When out exploring places in Siouxland and elsewhere sometimes there is not enough hours in the day. Or one visits on the wrong day. During an excursion north of Siouxland in Minnesota a museum and a former Carnegie Library caught my eye. The Hinkly House is a museum of local history, but only open a couple months out of the year and then only on Thursdays according to its website.

I’m always a sucker for history and the chance to learn a little more about a place. However this particular trip I was headed to a state park just outside of the community of Luverne, the Mounds State Park for a bit of a hike and as it turns out some views as some of the park in located on a hill. And with the drive and shorter fall days I didn’t take the time to research the area other than to just enjoy the drive and visit. Planning is always good, but spontaneity is also good at times.

The Hinkly House sits on a street just outside of the downtown Luverne, MN Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The Hinkly House sits on a street just outside of the downtown Luverne, MN Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The former Carnegie Library located in Luverne now houses a music venue where lessons and performances are found, giving local folk a chance to learn and listen at the Luverne Street Music.

The Luverne Street Music is located in a former Carnegie library building in Luverne, MN Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Beyond what I read on the organization’s website not much other information was found while visiting, but it was nice to see the building continuing service, as so many former Carnegie Library Buildings do in the small communities where they were built. Still serving the public in some form or another and most times through some kind of educational function or manner.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Hearing Music in Siouxland again, National Music Museum, Vermillion, SD

15 Feb
Acoustic musician Jake Blount performs in the newly opened auditorium of the National Music Museum at the University of South Dakota, Vemillion, Friday, February 4, 2022 in Vermillion, SD. Blount is playing a Henry Dobson banjo, which is part of the museum’s collection, which was made sometime between 1853 and 1867 in New York state. Blount specializes in the music of black and indigenous communities of the southeastern United States. The music museum closed in 2019 for expansion and renovations and recently opened the performance auditorium. The renovation of the music museum which houses the permanent collection of historical instruments may not open again until sometime in 2023 or 2024. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I recently visited a museum in which I haven’t ventured into for almost 3.5 years in Siouxland, which closed for renovations and expansion. The addition has been completed with a new performance auditorium but the museum housing the collection of instruments at the National Music Museum at the University of South Dakota, Vermillion, SD, may not open until 2023 or possibly 2024.

For someone who has never stepped foot inside the historical museum they may be shocked to find such a diversity of musical instruments that have been collected and donated to this facility from ancient to more modern pieces of instrumental music. And the fun part of the museum’s mission seems to be the opportunity to sometimes hear some of the instruments being used in performances by musicians.

That occurred recently when acoustic musician Jake Blount of Rhode Island performed and gave a short oral history of Black and Indigenous groups who used the banjo and fiddle as means of expression long, long before blue grass or old timey country music was given a thought.

National Music Museum Dwight Vaught introduces acoustic musician Jake Blount performs in the newly opened auditorium of the National Music Museum at the University of South Dakota, Vemillion, Friday, February 4, 2022 in Vermillion, SD. Blount specializes in the music of black and indigenous communities of the southeastern United States. The music museum closed in 2019 and the recently opened performance auditorium has been under construction for the past two years, while the renovation of the music museum which houses the permanent collection of historical instruments may not open until sometime in 2023 or 2024. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Acoustic musician Jake Blount performs in the newly opened auditorium of the National Music Museum at the University of South Dakota, Vemillion, Friday, February 4, 2022 in Vermillion, SD. Blount is playing a Henry Dobson banjo was that was made sometime between 1853 and 1867 in New York state. Blount specializes in the music of black and indigenous communities of the southeastern United States. The music museum closed in 2019 and the recently opened performance auditorium has been under construction for the past two years, while the renovation of the music museum which houses the permanent collection of historical instruments may not again open until sometime in 2023 or 2024. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Blount talked about the history of the banjo and how it was created by slaves and its long journey into the mainstream music scene and again how black musicians have once again begun playing it after attempts by white people to disparage the idea of blacks and the their early music by parody of the blackface musicians and entertainers who traveled the country and the world giving a very unflattering portrayal of such “low down and dirty music” that he explained made many black musicians ashamed and embarrassed to play this music for decades. He cited an academic piece by a historian whose name I did catch during the performance but apparently goes into detail about the journey of slaves who escaped to freedom and used their talent journey to a better life and location but who also created lasting music along the way.

I found a piece doing an online search and am not certain if it is the same historian, Laurent Dubois, who writes “a narrative of how this instrument was created by enslaved Africans in the midst of bondage in the Caribbean and Americas. He documents its journey from 17th- and 18th-century plantations to 19th-century minstrel shows to the bluegrass of Appalachia to the folk revival of the mid-20th century. In the process, Dubois documents how the banjo came to symbolize community, slavery, resistance, and ultimately America itself. A historian of the Caribbean and a banjo player himself, Dubois relied on the work of academic historians as well as insights from musicians, collectors, and banjo makers to tell this story.”

Audience members listen to acoustic musician Jake Blount performing in the newly opened auditorium of the National Music Museum at the University of South Dakota, Vemillion, Friday, February 4, 2022 in Vermillion, SD. Blount specializes in the music of black and indigenous communities of the southeastern United States. The music museum closed in 2019 and the recently opened performance auditorium has been under construction for the past two years, while the renovation of the music museum which houses the permanent collection of historical instruments may not open until sometime in 2023 or 2024. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

An audience member takes a photo of acoustic musician Jake Blount performing in the newly opened auditorium of the National Music Museum at the University of South Dakota, Vemillion, Friday, February 4, 2022 in Vermillion, SD. Blount specializes in the music of black and indigenous communities of the southeastern United States. The music museum closed in 2019 and the recently opened performance auditorium has been under construction for the past two years, while the renovation of the music museum which houses the permanent collection of historical instruments may not open until sometime in 2023 or 2024. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Audience members enjoy acoustic musician Jake Blount performing in the newly opened auditorium of the National Music Museum at the University of South Dakota, Vemillion, Friday, February 4, 2022 in Vermillion, SD. Blount specializes in the music of black and indigenous communities of the southeastern United States. The music museum closed in 2019 and the recently opened performance auditorium has been under construction for the past two years, while the renovation of the music museum which houses the permanent collection of historical instruments may not open until sometime in 2023 or 2024. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The new facility in which Blount performed is more of a theatre setting than the previous performance space in the museum, with more seating available, while still retaining its small and intimate space. Performances will again draw the targeted audience the museum had in the past, depending on the time of day and day of performance. And of course over time some of the performances and performers change especially those associated with the university.

I always enjoy my visits and once again look forward to the musical instrument collection being available to view and admire. It is such a different experience that seeing something like this online. And someday it will happen.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

National Music Museum Dwight Vaught introduces acoustic musician Jake Blount performs in the newly opened auditorium of the National Music Museum at the University of South Dakota, Vemillion, Friday, February 4, 2022 in Vermillion, SD. Blount specializes in the music of black and indigenous communities of the southeastern United States. The music museum closed in 2019 and the recently opened performance auditorium has been under construction for the past two years, while the renovation of the music museum which houses the permanent collection of historical instruments may not open until sometime in 2023 or 2024. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Audience members listen to acoustic musician Jake Blount performing in the newly opened auditorium of the National Music Museum at the University of South Dakota, Vemillion, Friday, February 4, 2022 in Vermillion, SD. Blount specializes in the music of black and indigenous communities of the southeastern United States. The music museum closed in 2019 and the recently opened performance auditorium has been under construction for the past two years, while the renovation of the music museum which houses the permanent collection of historical instruments may not open until sometime in 2023 or 2024. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Audience members listen to acoustic musician Jake Blount performing in the newly opened auditorium of the National Music Museum at the University of South Dakota, Vemillion, Friday, February 4, 2022 in Vermillion, SD. Blount specializes in the music of black and indigenous communities of the southeastern United States. The music museum closed in 2019 and the recently opened performance auditorium has been under construction for the past two years, while the renovation of the music museum which houses the permanent collection of historical instruments may not open until sometime in 2023 or 2024. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The National Music Museum at the University of South Dakota, Vemillion, Friday, February 4, 2022 in Vermillion, SD, recently began hosting noon concerts again. The music museum closed in 2019 and the recently opened performance auditorium has been under construction for the past two years, while the renovation of the music museum which houses the permanent collection of historical instruments may not open until sometime in 2023 or 2024. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Early History of Jazz Around Siouxland, Durham Museum, Omaha, NE

1 Feb
Band leader Dan Desdunes served as band director for Father Flanagan’s Boys Home band seen on display at the Durham Museum Friday, December 17, 2021 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

History can be found in many ways as one drives about and visits places in and around Siouxland. A companion exhibit to one about Billie Holiday at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE recounts through photographs early days of jazz in the Omaha area. Names of early musicians who led the way to a changing style of music.

An exhibit of early African American jazz groups of Omaha currently on display at the Durham Museum Friday, December 17, 2021 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Band leader Dan Desdunes with the Boys’ Town band outside of Union Station in Omaha, NE circa 1928 seen on display at the Durham Museum Friday, December 17, 2021 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Basie Givens was an important musician in Omaha during the second World War and formed a 16-piece orchestra with fellow works from the then local bomb plant called the “Basie Bombadiers”. Earlier in the late 1920′ he played in a local group called the “Jungle Rhythm Boys”. A number of photos documenting the history of jazz in Omaha is on display at the Durham Museum Friday, December 17, 2021 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A number of musicians then as now played in a variety of groups and different venues to make a living creating “sound” or music and pursuing their particular passion. Even now in the Old Market area of Omaha one will find street musicians playing, providing entertainment (depending on one’s taste) and during the warmer months can be found around the area.

The “Jungle Rhythm Boys” was a musical group started in the late 1920’s by Basie Given and Alvin “Junior” Raglin which is part of an exhibit about the early Omaha jazz era currently at the Durham Museum Friday, December 17, 2021 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Band leader Dan Desdunes had his own band, the Dan Desdunes Band and a number of known musicians played with him and in other groups during those early jazz days in Omaha, NE seen on display at the Durham Museum Friday, December 17, 2021 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Not a frequenter of the clubs in the Omaha area, I can only surmise that this tradition continues probably buoyed by the internet which would allow musicians to draw a wider audience to hear the music produced. But even with an online outlet, there is nothing quite like listening to music played live, in person which becomes part of the ambience and charm of the day or night when you encounter it.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The photograph is of Ruth Brown performing at the Dreamland Ballroom in 1949 and is part of an exhibit of the history of jazz in Omaha, NE currently on display at the Durham Museum Friday, December 17, 2021 in Omaha, NE. The ballroom hosted jazz greats that included Duke Ellington, Fats Domino, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

An exhibit of early African American jazz groups of Omaha currently on display at the Durham Museum Friday, December 17, 2021 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Viewing Jazz in Siouxland, Billie Holiday at the Durham Museum, Omaha, NE

24 Jan
A Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition of photographs by photographer Jerry Dantzic of singer Billie Holiday during 1957 while in Sugar Hill, New York City, a part of Harlem now on display at the Durham Museum Friday, seen December 17, 2021 in Omaha, NE. Billie Holiday performed with many of the greats of that jazz era including Ben Webster, Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Doc Cheatham, Vic Dickenson, Danny Barker, Milt Hinton and others. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Recently on a trip to Omaha I was able to view a traveling exhibit by the Smithsonian Institution about the singer Billie Holiday and photographer Jerry Dantzic who spent time following her about in the New York area documenting her life on and off the stage. This occurred in the late 1950’s and Dantzic’s documentation of Holiday was done with cameras and B&W film. The exhibit at the Durham Museum is there through early February. And it reminds me of my earlier days of photographing for newspapers when the film of choice, basically the only film, was black and white. Normally Kodak Tri-X, with an ASA (these days ISO) of 400.

A traveling exhibition by the Smithsonian Institution of photographer Jerry Dantzig’s images of singer Billie Holiday’s life in and around Sugar Hill, a section of Harlem in New York City in the spring of 1957, seen on display at the Durham Museum Friday, December 17, 2021 in Omaha, NE. Dantzic photographed in available light so as not to disrupt the performance of Holiday in the various places she performed. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

An enlarged contact sheet from the Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition of photographs by photographer Jerry Dantzic of singer Billie Holiday during 1957 while in Sugar Hill, New York City, a part of Harlem now on display at the Durham Museum Friday, seen December 17, 2021 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Dantzic was a photojournalist and this particular project was something he had done at the time and it was published in magazines that used a lot of photographs, namely Life magazine and similar publications. These publications did photo spreads of several pages of subjects both topical and varied.

A Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition of photographs by photographer Jerry Dantzic of singer Billie Holiday during 1957 while in Sugar Hill, New York City, a part of Harlem now on display at the Durham Museum Friday, seen December 17, 2021 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

One of photographer Jerry Dantzic’s Leica M3 cameras he used to create images of singer Billie Holiday’s life in and around Sugar Hill, a section of Harlem in New York City in the spring of 1957. A traveling exhibition by the Smithsonian Institution is on display at the Durham Museum Friday, December 17, 2021 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©) using mostly black and white film with available light at the Durham Museum Friday, December 17, 2021 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Dantzic was a “fly on the wall” as he recorded unguarded moments of his subject, Holiday, by then a renowned singer recognizable by people on the street and performing in upscale clubs. The B&W film made for a more gritty presence but also necessary as Dantzic photographed without flash using whatever available ambient light was present. In film days shooting in difficult low light situations photographers were always happy in capturing the content and telling a story, and sometimes the “graininess” of film came with the territory. Whereas today people might get chastised for not ridding an image of that grainy/pixelated look because of technology that makes it possible to make an image look perfect.

It is fun looking at the images Dantzic created and understanding the conditions in which he worked and being able to capture his subject in ways to tell the story he was pursuing.

A Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition of photographs by photographer Jerry Dantzic of singer Billie Holiday during 1957 while in Sugar Hill, New York City, a part of Harlem now on display at the Durham Museum Friday, seen December 17, 2021 in Omaha, NE. Dantzic photographed in available light so as not to disrupt the performance of Holiday in the various places she performed. Billie Holiday performed with many of the greats of that jazz era including Ben Webster, Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Doc Cheatham, Vic Dickenson, Danny Barker, Milt Hinton and others. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition of photographs by photographer Jerry Dantzic of singer Billie Holiday during 1957 while in Sugar Hill, New York City, a part of Harlem now on display at the Durham Museum Friday, seen December 17, 2021 in Omaha, NE. Billie Holiday performed with many of the greats of that jazz era including Ben Webster, Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Doc Cheatham, Vic Dickenson, Danny Barker, Milt Hinton and others. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition of photographs by photographer Jerry Dantzic of singer Billie Holiday during 1957 while in Sugar Hill, New York City, a part of Harlem now on display at the Durham Museum Friday, seen December 17, 2021 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

History comes in many forms, mostly in books and the written word, sometimes in film through cinema and again in photographs. The photos encapsulate a particular time period and allows one as much time as needed to stand and view and contemplate what is seen. The exhibit also invokes a recording method that is now mostly extinct as far as the process used. Technology has made it easier to photograph in seemingly difficult conditions. And technology should make life “easier” through progress no matter the subject or medium.

But this exhibit harkens to another time period. The B&W invokes an era that has passed but was preserved so others who did not see the work published could still enjoy it for what it is a generation or two later.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition of photographs by photographer Jerry Dantzic of singer Billie Holiday during 1957 while in Sugar Hill, New York City, a part of Harlem now on display at the Durham Museum Friday, seen December 17, 2021 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition of photographs by photographer Jerry Dantzic of singer Billie Holiday during 1957 while in Sugar Hill, New York City, a part of Harlem now on display at the Durham Museum Friday, seen December 17, 2021 in Omaha, NE. Billie Holiday performed with many of the greats of that jazz era including Ben Webster, Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Doc Cheatham, Vic Dickenson, Danny Barker, Milt Hinton and others. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition of photographs by photographer Jerry Dantzic of singer Billie Holiday during 1957 while in Sugar Hill, New York City, a part of Harlem now on display at the Durham Museum Friday, seen December 17, 2021 in Omaha, NE.

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