SHERIDAN — Multiple groups and individuals received recognition from the Wyoming State Historical Society for their efforts in historical promotion and preservation.
Eleven awards were presented to groups and individuals from Sheridan County, including the First Place Chapter Award, which was presented to the Sheridan County Historical Society and Museum for its children’s “Exploratorium” exhibit.
“It puts us at the top of all the different historical groups in the state, or all the different chapters of the Wyoming State Historical Society,” Sheridan County Historical Society and Museum director John Woodward said.
The Exploratorium exhibit had its soft opening at the beginning of August and combines different elements geared toward children between the ages of 4 and 11 with several hands-on activities.
Currently, the Exploratorium is exhibiting resin animal skulls and tracks so children can explore what animals can be found in Sheridan county and what these animals look like, along with children’s books relating to Native American, Western and American history. It also has sample clothing like a train conductor’s hat or miner’s helmet for children to try on.
“So they have a little bit of everything,” Woodward said.
SCHS&M curator of education Shawna Michelena received the Henryetta Berry Memorial Award for historic education. Only one person is awarded each year.
Michelena oversees most of the educational programs offered at the museum, for both children and adults, and has supervised the expansion of the museum’s Tidbit initiative from a summer schedule to a year-round program.
Woodward said the program has grown from 120 to more than 300 participants this year.
“She’s really taken the lead in developing programing that helps appeal to people of all ages,” Woodward said. “So we’re able to target different facets of the age demographic in the Sheridan area and offer appropriate programming for each group.”
Dayton Mercantile owners Elaine Stevens and Craig Boheler received the prestigious Maurine Carley Memorial Award for historical preservation.
“It’s probably one of the biggest and most important awards that the Wyoming State Historical Society awards each year,” Woodward said.
Stevens said the award reflects the efforts of refurbishing the building and keeping its history alive, as well as the importance of the Mercantile to “the community of Dayton and Sheridan County and state of Wyoming.”
The building went up for sale in 2005 and remained that way until Stevens and her husband bought it in 2013. Due to its inhabitance, the couple had to do a complete restoration, including new electrical, plumbing and heating, as well as new walls and paint on the inside and out.
Through the process, the owners needed to consider the historical integrity of the building.
“Historically, you just want to keep the footprint of the building,” Stevens said. “…If you walk into Dayton Mercantile, you understand that you just step back in time; it’s the coolest building. It’s the feel of the building, and we didn’t want to change that. It was easy just as long as you keep in mind to keep to the basic feel, the old West feel of the building.”
Woodward said the multiple awards the county received shows how active Sheridan County is when it comes to preserving and promoting history.
“I think the big takeaway there is the people in Sheridan County are very conscious of the history that’s located right here,” Woodward said. “And that they’re taking strides to preserve that and to share that with other people.”