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Enjoying History near Siouxland, a Union Railway Station, Omaha, NE

8 Dec

The Durham Museum was formerly a Union Pacific Railroad station in Omaha, NE Wednesday, Nov. 7 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

There are so many facets of history that sometimes its easy to overlook particular pieces of it, even when it’s not so easy to overlook once you are aware. On a recent outing to Omaha, NE with some friends, we visited the Durham Museum which used to be a Union Railway Station.

The entry hall or main waiting area of the Durham Museum, formerly a Union Pacific Railroad station, dwarfs visitors now as then, seen in Omaha, NE Wednesday, Nov. 7 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

To say the least, the place is magnificent and utterly gorgeous. We traveled to the Museum to see a current showing of a wildlife photographer’s work which was very impressive. But once one walked into the station it was hard to keep moving toward the exhibit housed there. A brochure says for a station to be a union station it required a train depot to serve more than one railroad line. And evidently during its heyday this station served the Union Pacific, Chicago & Northwestern, Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific, the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific, the Illinois Central System, the Missouri Pacific and the Wabash Railway. And small scenes of recreated history as well as plaques informing a visitor abounded about the place.

A few replica scenarios show what the Union Station’s original purpose are on display at the Durham Museum, formerly a Union Pacific Railroad station in Omaha, NE Wednesday, Nov. 7 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A few replica scenarios show what the Union Station’s original purpose are on display at the Durham Museum, formerly a Union Pacific Railroad station in Omaha, NE Wednesday, Nov. 7 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Displays tell the history of the former Union Pacific Railroad station, a hub of action during the Second World War, and now the Durham Museum, in Omaha, NE Wednesday, Nov. 7 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I find it hard to imagine the hustle and bustle that must have been happening in this station. I have not been to New York’s Grand Central Station or other still functioning railway stations so I have no sense of the enormity of the number of people gathered in one place just passing through.

Displays tell the history of the former Union Pacific Railroad station, now Durham Museum, in Omaha, NE Wednesday, Nov. 7 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Displays tell the history of the former Union Pacific Railroad station, now Durham Museum, in Omaha, NE Wednesday, Nov. 7 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The bronze scenes help give a sense of what might have occurred at the time and is a pleasant little scene for families to take photographs around while visiting. I would think it would in the day have been easy to have gotten lost or separated from companions. But not so much today. It’s a grand place to reflect on changing demographics and transportation modes but truly filled with history that anyone can appreciate.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A few replica scenarios show what the Union Station’s original purpose are on display at the Durham Museum, formerly a Union Pacific Railroad station in Omaha, NE Wednesday, Nov. 7 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Displays tell the history of the former Union Pacific Railroad station, now Durham Museum, in Omaha, NE Wednesday, Nov. 7 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Learning a little Photographic History in Siouxland, W.H. Over Museum, Vermillion, SD

6 Dec

It’s hard not to appreciate the great strides that has occurred in photography in the last 15 years. And even more so in the last couple of centuries when photography was first invented. I recently spent some time with members of the Sioux City Camera Club as they visited with Lynn Muller, a former instructor at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, SD, as he gave us a personal tour of his most extensive collection of Kodak cameras and memorabilia.

Members of the Sioux City Camera Club are given a tour by Dr. Lynn Muller of his extensive Kodak camera and memorabilia collection at the W. H. Over Museum in Vermillion, SD Saturday, Nov. 17 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Mr. Muller has been collecting cameras for quite some time, and his knowledge of George Eastman and his quest to supply everyone with a camera is impressive and almost overwhelming. I previously visited with Mr. Muller and learned a lot then about his camera collection. This time I paid more attention to what he said about Mr. Eastman building his photographic empire. Inventing roll film to replace glass plates that made photography something many more people could do without worrying about knowing chemistry and accumulating the necessary items for printing as well as developing film. Mr. Muller taught marketing at USD so is in a good area to understand Mr Eastman’s approach to selling his photo memory pitch to the average family, and how it changed through the years.

Members of the Sioux City Camera Club are given a tour by Dr. Lynn Muller of his extensive Kodak camera and memorabilia collection at the W. H. Over Museum in Vermillion, SD Saturday, Nov. 17 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The Camera Club easily spent a couple of hours viewing the collection and listening to the history, and then spent more time talking about the craft of photography over coffee and cookies. Even though the craft of photography and its tools has immensely changed in the last few years, it wouldn’t thrive without willing participants who like those that came before them are trying to improve their own photographic skills and use their cameras to explore their world around them.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Members of the Sioux City Camera Club are given a tour by Dr. Lynn Muller of his extensive Kodak camera and memorabilia collection at the W. H. Over Museum in Vermillion, SD Saturday, Nov. 17 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Members of the Sioux City Camera Club are given a tour by Dr. Lynn Muller of his extensive Kodak camera and memorabilia collection at the W. H. Over Museum in Vermillion, SD Saturday, Nov. 17 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

‘Tis the Season in Siouxland, O’Connor House, Homer, NE

30 Nov

With Thanksgiving barely behind us, some local organizations and groups are already in the full swing of celebrating Christmas in Siouxland. But that’s understandable as people are less inclined to attend some celebrations the closer, and sometimes more hectic, it gets to the actual holiday.

The O’Connor House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and each year is decorated for a Christmas celebration in Homer, NE Saturday November 3, 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Each individual bedroom in the O’Connor House is decorated for a Christmas celebration in Homer, NE Saturday November 3, 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The O’Connor House in Homer, NE hosts two weekends where different groups or organizations each step up and decorate a room in the historical house with a Christmas effect. And the historical home of a first settler is staffed with volunteers to tell visitors about the family and life of the house and on the plains. One volunteer actually grew up in the house as a boy, after the O’Connor’s lived there in the late 1860’s, when his parents rented the place. Duane Harris tells some fascinating tales about the original owner, Cornelius O’Connor and life during the early settler days when the area was shared with the Native Americans who had lived there for generations.

Dakota County Historical County volunteer Duane Harris grew up in the O’Connor House and now tells visitors during a Christmas celebration about some of the home’s history and about the original occupants in Homer, NE Saturday November 3, 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Each room of the home is staffed with people relating stories about that particular space, either something about the family, or related to those possibly in one of the many photographs that dot the home.

Visitors are greeted by Dakota County Historical Society volunteers in each room to share a bit of history about the O’Connor House and its first occupants during aChristmas celebration in Homer, NE Saturday November 3, 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Photographs of one of the O’Connor children on display at the O’Connor House during a Christmas celebration in Homer, NE Saturday November 3, 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Of course one important room is the kitchen where there are people baking cookies in a wood-fired stove with great success. Gingerbread cookies never tasted so good. And each room looks so homey one feels inclined to just sit, have some hot cider or chocolate and enjoy the ambiance.

Dakota County Historical Society volunteers busy in the kitchen baking cookies and gingerbread men cookies in a wood fired stove during the Christmas celebration at the O’Connor House in Homer, NE Saturday November 3, 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Each of the bedrooms in the O’Connor House is decorated for a Christmas celebration in Homer, NE Saturday November 3, 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The O’Connor House is decorated for a Christmas celebration in Homer, NE Saturday November 3, 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Of course the one takeaway I enjoyed most was a small sign almost hidden in the pantry near the kitchen. Reassuring people to not feel guilty about the Christmas holiday or enjoying its bounty.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A sentiment of many holiday patrons is seen on a shelf near the kitchen at the O’Connor House during a Christmas celebration in Homer, NE Saturday November 3, 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Exploring History in Siouxland, Old Courthouse Museum, Sioux Falls

20 Nov

The Old Courthouse Museum in Sioux Falls, SD Monday, Oct. 22 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The Old Courthouse Museum with clock tower in Sioux Falls, SD Monday, Oct. 22 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

There is an old saying that one never truly knows where he/she is going if you don’t know where you’ve been. Or something to that effect. Which is why for me when traveling about Siouxland and areas nearby I enjoy finding museums and other places that contain nuggets of history about the region. One such place is the Old Courthouse Museum in Sioux Falls. It contains a surprisingly large number of exhibits and gives a bit of history as its function as a former courthouse.

Historical displays are set up throughout the Old Courthouse Museum in Sioux Falls, SD Monday, Oct. 22 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Historical displays are set up throughout the Old Courthouse Museum in Sioux Falls, SD Monday, Oct. 22 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A movie projector from the early days is set up on display in the Old Courthouse Museum in Sioux Falls, SD Monday, Oct. 22 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Current displays contain information about the first World War that recently was celebrated in France, commemorating the 100th year of Armistice Day when a peace treaty was signed, and people had hoped it was the war to end all wars. But that didn’t exactly go as planned. Human nature being a funny sort of barometer in gauging how people will behave.

A current display shows the bunker set ups used during WWI in the Old Courthouse Museum in Sioux Falls, SD Monday, Oct. 22 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The museum though is a fine example of architecture and gives a visitor a nice sense of its place in the history of the territory doing the westward expansion of the country and before the Dakota Territory became two separate states. I enjoy spending the time to learn a bit more about the region and its place in history and look forward to finding other gems to explore down the road.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Informational displays help a visitor understand the function of the building in its former life as an acting courthouse at the Old Courthouse Museum in Sioux Falls, SD Monday, Oct. 22 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Historical displays are found throughout the Old Courthouse Museum in Sioux Falls, SD Monday, Oct. 22 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A buffalo is ensconced near a scenic painting near the entrance of the Old Courthouse Museum in Sioux Falls, SD Monday, Oct. 22 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Now an open space, this was a former courtroom seen in the Old Courthouse Museum in Sioux Falls, SD Monday, Oct. 22 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A mural on a wall leading to a former balcony seating area for a court room in the Old Courthouse Museum in Sioux Falls, SD Monday, Oct. 22 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The Day the Music Went Quiet in Siouxland, National Music Museum, Vermillion, SD

10 Oct

I found out recently that the National Music Museum located on the campus of the University of South Dakota, Vermillion, SD will be closing for two years for an expansion project of the museum that will add 16,000 square feet of additional space, which includes two floors and an underground level.

The National Music Museum ot the campus of the University of South Dakota, will be closing for a couple of years for expansion and renovation, seen at Vermillion, SD Tuesday, Oct. 2 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

From reading a press release and a current newsletter I found out that the 1910 former Carnegie Library expansion will include extra display area and a new performing space. The museum currently houses 15,000 instruments plus other material associated with them. It will be expanding its restoration area and be adding a dedicated research area.

I have visited the museum a few times taking advantage of free lunch time concerts that are presented there. A real treat to hear accomplished musicians perform their stuff. I especially like the Christmas concerts which gets a person into the mood for the season.

 

 

I will be sad not to hear a Christmas concert this year or next in the museum’s current performance space. It is small and intimate like a group of friends arriving at someone’s parlor to hear a performance. Performances will continue though at other venues on campus with a scheduled Christmas performance on the books. The expansion will benefit the museum though, and its continued service to the world of music and make a living art a little easier to ensure its future and enjoyment of music lovers.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Visiting History south of Siouxland, Union Pacific Railroad Museum, Council Bluffs

28 Sep

A history of the Union Pacific railroad and railroad history can be found in the Union Pacific Museum in downtown Council Bluffs, Iowa Friday, Aug. 21, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Various displays explain the evolution and progression of railroad history at the Union Pacific Museum in downtown Council Bluffs, Iowa Friday, Aug. 21, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It’s nice to find gems of history in your backyard, or a neighbor’s backyard that you can visit and learn more about the region and history itself. The Union Pacific Railroad Museum is full of memorabilia and information about the the railroad coming of age and during its “golden” years before flying and airplanes displaced rail travel. It’s amazing the luxury such travel afforded if one could afford it.

Various displays show the romantic version of traveling by rail at the Union Pacific Museum in downtown Council Bluffs, Iowa Friday, Aug. 21, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

There was a lot of support staff involved in giving passengers a good safe ride on passenger trains. And I have read along the way that during those early days, when segregation was in full bloom that African Americans working for the railroad received a salary that allowed them a good living for their families. I have not researched to see if the pay was on par with others within the industry, but one would hope the railroad industry valued those employees also.

A display photograph showing the support staff used for passenger trains at the Union Pacific Museum in downtown Council Bluffs, Iowa Friday, Aug. 21, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The museum has some fun exhibits, like the one where the “station master” talks to the customer, a very life-like animated projection of a person and the various watches, since the railroad ran on a time schedule as well as a myriad of watch lanterns used by conductors and other rail workers.

An almost real life looking ticket teller projection gives some history about the railroad while trying to sell you a ticket for the next train out at the Union Pacific Museum in downtown Council Bluffs, Iowa Friday, Aug. 21, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A variety of lanterns used by conductors and other railroad crew members seen at the Union Pacific Museum in downtown Council Bluffs, Iowa Friday, Aug. 21, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A railroad runs on schedule and a bevy of conductor watches are on display at the Union Pacific Museum in downtown Council Bluffs, Iowa Friday, Aug. 21, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The museum is a nice way to spend a couple of hours soaking in history and learning through exhibits. Sitting in downtown Council Bluffs, and only a few blocks from restaurants that dot the downtown area.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

An almost realistic looking line of track at the Union Pacific Museum in downtown Council Bluffs, Iowa Friday, Aug. 21, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A gallery of photographs showing famous people who traveled by rail at the Union Pacific Museum in downtown Council Bluffs, Iowa Friday, Aug. 21, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Finding a Trail out of Siouxland, Western Historic Trails Center, Council Bluffs

20 Sep

Iowa and the Siouxland area was a jumping off point at one time for people two centuries ago traveling west.  A hidden little gem in Council Bluffs, the Western Historic Trails Center covers a variety of the trails moving out of the Siouxland area for people looking for a fresh start.

The Western Historic Trails Center tells the story about various trails leading west as America was settled and is located in Council Bluffs, Iowa Friday, Aug. 21, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The center is situated in the southern portion of the city and is connected to other parks and places by paved trails, good both for walking and bike riding.

A sign delineates the distance for destinations along the trail that runs through and along the Western Historic Trails Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa Friday, Aug. 21, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Trails lead away from and to the Western Historic Trails Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa seen Friday, Aug. 21, 2018. One particular 3-mile trail leads to the Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge that crosses the Missouri River and takes the walker or biker into Omaha, NE, along the community’s waterfront. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

One trail even connects to the Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge that crosses the Missouri River and drops you into Omaha, NE along the river front. But inside the trails center is the story of people moving west. Small individual metal dioramas tell the story, as does early American postcards along a back wall depicting scenes from the possibly 19th and 20 centuries.

Quite an expansive area is set up to help explain the movement west by settlers as America expanded its boundaries at the Western Historic Trails Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa Friday, Aug. 21, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Various metal dioramas tell the story of the settlers’ movement west at the Western Historic Trails Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa Friday, Aug. 21, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The center has nice grounds where people can picnic or take a rest if using the trails, as well as a sculpted piece telling the story of the Lewis and Clark expedition. And it’s these stories in places like the Trails Center about the history of people striving for a better life that helps paint the picture of America and its becoming a nation. A melting pot of diversity and cultures blending together to live a better life.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A sculpted piece by artist Nan Wilson showing the Lewis and Clark trip up along the Missouri River during their exploration for President Thomas Jefferson seen at the Western Historic Trails Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa Friday, Aug. 21, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A nicely shaded picnic area graces the grounds of the Western Historic Trails Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa Friday, Aug. 21, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Various metal dioramas tell the story of the settlers’ movement west at the Western Historic Trails Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa Friday, Aug. 21, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

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