Disney- Pixar movie “Up” came out; ironically, I have not seen it yet, please don’t judge me. For those same eight years, some of Monmouth’s community members have been spending their time preserving the county’s artifacts; since the birth of the Warren County History Museum (WCHM).
When you think about it, eight years doesn’t really seem like a long time for a history museum to be around, but the amount of work and effort that has been put into the conservation of the museum’s items is astonishing; especially since a lot of the work has been done by local volunteers who had zero experience in the museum industry. Barb Pearson began volunteering in order to help the museum move from Roseville to Monmouth. When she is at the museum, she does a wide range of tasks such as: sorting, moving, and alphabetizing the items in the collections. Pearson shared, “I loved it in the beginning because I had just retired and I was able to work with the collections all by myself; it was my alone time. But now it’s better because we have a team of seven, and I really enjoy working with the others.” In the beginning, Pearson had to get in contact with other museums and Lynn Daw from Monmouth College, in order to get advice on preserving the artifacts.
On the other hand, Jim DeYoung had more experience with history since he was a theater historian and was also on the board of directors for the Prairieland Historical Association (PHA). Eventually, the PHA merged with the museum and the Warren County Historical Society to create the WCHM, and DeYoung became a board member and volunteer in 2012. When he works, he is usually sorting and cataloging both new and old items. While I was speaking with DeYoung, he pointed out that a lot of the objects in the collections were needed to get rid of, either because they were no longer able to be preserved, they were duplicates, or they simply had nothing to do with Warren County. One of these artifacts was a model of a ship that was very well made and taken care of, but was from Lindenhurst, IL. “Even though this is very interesting, we cannot keep it here because it doesn’t relate to Warren County,” he added.
Jan DeYoung, Jim DeYoung’s wife, also started volunteering after Jim DeYoung became a board member of the museum. She usually works with keeping track of inventory, accessioning, computer entries, and green sheets. Jan DeYoung shared that her favorite thing about volunteering is being able to look at the new items that the museum has acquired; “The most interesting objects that I have seen come in were some bloomers-- 19th century underwear, petticoats that were very ornate and intricate, split bloomers, and camisoles. I don’t know why, but I just find them interesting.”
One thing I found interesting during my talk with the volunteers was when Pearson asked me, “Have you ever seen a sunbonnet baby quilt before? Do you know what that is?” I replied no, and she said, “That’s because you’re young.” She then proceeded to pull out a book on “The Sunbonnet Babies” from 1902, and told me that no one should know where it was hiding because they might want to take it. She then told me that they were very popular and their books were read in school; but that they received backlash because the “Sunbonnet Babies” were only for girls, and parents were upset saying that they needed something for the boys too. Today I did a bit of research to see if the boy characters were ever created and they were called “The Overall Boys.”
It is clear to see that all the efforts from the volunteers has helped keep these artifacts safe, but according to Pearson, they are still having trouble preserving them because it is very difficult to control the humidity and temperature in the collections area. Jim DeYoung expressed how thankful he was that the museum was able to hire someone who was professionally trained in museum studies in order to help them properly preserve and organize the museum’s collections. Kellen Hinrichsen, the