Ready to cut the ribbon

Saturday, July 7, 2012
Cindy McGranahan, director of the Clay County Heritage Center and Parker Historical Society, stands in the middle of one of the exhibit areas at the new facility on Grand Avenue. The facility will also house the Clay County Tourism Bureau. A ribbon cutting is set for Tuesday morning and the center will officially open to the public. (Photo by Michael Fischer)

The Parker Museum is going through some changes.

The museum itself will remain where it is, but the office is moving to the new Heritage Center, a new Grand Avenue museum operated by the Parker Historical Society of Clay County, on the corner of Grand Avenue and West Park Street.

The idea for the expansion had been discussed by the board for many years, but was moved along by the Dvergsten Charitable Foundation, which offered them a challenge in 2006.

A display that celebrates the history of voting in Clay County. Many of the displays feature original items from by-gone eras. (Photo by Michael Fischer)

"We needed to find a way to make this dream of ours a reality," said museum director Cindy McGranahan.

Their new dream opens on Tuesday. The ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place at 9:45 a.m. The center will be open until 6 p.m. with free admission. Beginning Wednesday, the center will begin its regular hours and admission.

The Clay County Heritage Center will house two exhibit galleries. The first, the Dvergsten exhibit gallery, contains four exhibits.

"Let's Vote," chronicles the early voting days of Clay County and of Spencer. It features a voting machine that was last used in 1972. This machine, until now, had been kept in a box, because there was nowhere to put it.

Introducing this exhibit are two of Abraham Lincoln's campaign buttons from the 1860 election. 1860 was the first year that citizens of Clay County would have voted, after settling in the late 1850s. That year, there were 52 settlers in the county, though only 20 of them would have been able to vote. Women, at this time, were not qualified.

One of the exhibits in the Clay County Heritage Center documents the Spencer Fire of 1931, which destroyed most of the downtown area and led to the state of Iowa banning most types of fireworks. (Photo by Michael Fischer)

Perhaps the largest of the exhibits is dedicated to the Great Spencer Fire. They have large black and white photographs from the event, which altered the downtown landscape and changed the fireworks law in the state of Iowa. In the center of the exhibit is one of the trucks used to battle the fire.

"A-MAIZE-ing Corn" features photographs and equipment from the early farming days in Clay County.

"On the Air with KICD" contains the early equipment that was used to manage the radio. This exhibit features the 1978 weather radar machine. In addition, there is a video of a weather report being given on this machine. The transmitter and antennae from this radar are still in use.

Holly Kellogg stands next to an exhibit of Depression-era photographs that documented conditions in Clay County. (Photo by Michael Fischer)

In addition to the Dvergsten exhibit galleries, there are smaller exhibits throughout the lobby and entrance, including photographs of the Farm Security Administration, from 1936, depicting scenes from the Depression. Images include: a family gathered around the dinner table with their bed spring propped up against the wall until nighttime; a woman pumping water at a well because there was no running water in her home; and a "shantytown" containing small homes.

"We can now bring artifacts together to tell a story," McGranahan said. "We're also able to display things that we haven't been able to before."

Previously unavailable for display is a collection of paperweights by Eleanor Geeting. These colorful glass weights were gathered by the Historical Society in the mid-1990s, but were never shown until now.

Still in the works is the south gallery, which will soon hold the history of Clay County. On Monday night, the gallery will house a reception for donors and members of the Historical Society, for a private preview.

In addition to the galleries, rooms are available for public use. A meeting room just off of the Dvergsten gallery will be available for a small fee, but the research room will be available for anyone who wants to learn more about the history of the area or about their own personal history.

Future plans for the new museum involve development of educational programming. Their goal is to have programs available that will appeal to all ages and all educational levels.

McGranahan and the others at the Heritage Center hope that this new location will draw more people.

"We've already had people stopping by with things," McGranahan said. "We hope that this location will be more convenient for people, and that they'll stop by and see what we have here."

On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, it will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. On Saturdays, they will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. On Sundays, they will be open from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. They will be closed Mondays.

Admission will be $5 for adults and $3 for children 12 and under.

As of now, the plans for the current office building are not finalized.

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  • This is a fantastic addition to the county and our community. All the hard work is about to pay off. Thanks for maintaining our past for our children's future.

    -- Posted by A. View Point on Sat, Jul 7, 2012, at 8:36 AM
  • Hello, I was wondering if the paperweights by Eleanor Geeting were still on display. In doing genealogy, I have discovered her as my grandmother's cousin. I am interested in seeing a photo of her as well. Thanks, Nancy

    -- Posted by Nan VanGulick on Mon, Dec 9, 2013, at 6:28 PM
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