SHERIDAN — The Sheridan County Historical Society and Museum board of directors has received a jolt from new membership in recent years, and the new leadership is ready to make its mark.
Jennifer Betz, board president, said she joined the board three years ago and most of the current board joined after her. When Betz took over as president of the board, she said it quickly became apparent that the new members had to take ownership of the society.
“We had a donor event last fall and one of the donors, who I’ve known my entire life, said ‘So you’re the board president, what are you going to do about it?’” Betz said. “And it hit me that we’ve got to do something.”
The museum is in the first phase of a five-phase redesign, which Sheridan County Historical Society and Museum Executive Director Mikayla Larrow — who took over in September — said will update some of the museum’s familiar exhibits and make room for new ones.
“Our current hope is that once we finish (the redesign) we’ll really have a different feel in the museum,” Larrow said. “We’ll still have a lot of the same exhibits, but they’ll feel newer and fresher.”
Items exhibited in museums have to be rotated because when on display for long periods of time, they can be eroded by basic environmental forces like light. In order to preserve the items in the museum’s care, and create more dynamic exhibits, Larrow said she plans to keep the general themes of the museum’s exhibits but rotate new pieces through the exhibits to create variations on those themes.
“We’ll still have a Native American exhibit and an early-Sheridan exhibit, but we’ll go through our collection and start rotating in some of the different things that people might not have seen before,” Larrow said. “So for example, we’ll go through the mining spot and yes we have PKS Mining right now but maybe instead of focusing on the company, we have quite a few things from Buzz Montgomery, who worked for them for years.”
To plan for how the exhibits will rotate, though, the historical society first needs to compile and inventory of every item in their possession.
hundred storage boxes in its possession and going through all of them has proven to be a massive undertaking. Because of the scope of the project, members of the historical society board have been volunteering their time to help Larrow and her two employees sort through the archives.
In sifting through the archives, however, the members of the historical society have discovered a number of items they didn’t know they had. For instance, Larrow said they have found a wide collection of women’s dresses, hats and gloves that could be used to put together an exhibit that displays how local women’s fashion has evolved through the years.
When the museum reopens, it will also feature a rotating exhibit of notable women from Sheridan County as the Wyoming Office of Tourism has dubbed 2019 “The Year of Wyoming Women” in celebration of the 150th anniversary of women’s suffrage.
The Historical Society is tentatively — and Betz and Larrow stressed tentatively — aiming to reopen by May, but the efforts to evolve the museum won’t stop there.
Looking forward, Betz said she would like to grow the board’s collection to allow the museum to feature two new exhibits every year. In particular, she said she would like to make the museum more representative of Sheridan County as a whole.
“There’s parts of Sheridan County that we’re finding we don’t have a lot of information from,” Betz said. “For instance, I live in Clearmont and we’re not finding a lot of stuff from this side of Sheridan County. By growing, we can make it truly a county museum.”