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Northwest Missouri State University


News Release

Students in Northwest's History of American Folklife course have researched and created displays for a new exhibit at the Nodaway County Historical Society Museum, featuring rural life in the county during the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Students in Northwest's History of American Folklife course have researched and created displays for a new exhibit at the Nodaway County Historical Society Museum, featuring rural life in the county during the late 1800s and early 1900s. (Photo by Raylynn Myers/University Relations)

Nov. 10, 2014

History students gain hands-on experience building museum exhibit

Northwest Missouri State University history students are learning firsthand this fall about the research and planning that goes into a public exhibit that they also installed at a local history museum.

The exhibit featuring rural life in Nodaway County opens with a reception from 2-4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 16, at the Nodaway County Historical Society Museum, located at 110 Walnut St., in Maryville. The exhibit is the creation of students in History of American Folklife, a course taught at Northwest by Dr. Elyssa Ford, assistant professor of history.

“I hope students will see this exhibit because it is a really interesting opportunity to learn more about this community, and there is some pretty interesting information that these exhibits will show – like Susan B. Anthony and Helen Keller coming to Maryville to promote women getting the right to vote,” Ford said.

The exhibit opening is the culmination of a trimester-long project that began with the students completing research papers about select topics. From the research papers, the students translated their most interesting findings for inclusion in the exhibit, in addition to deciding how to best present the information and writing concise labels for each display.  

For each exhibit topic, Ford also required the students to include an interactive piece and design a lesson plan. Each display includes a Quick Response code that take exhibit-goers additional information online.

To help them, students heard from professionals who are used to designing museum exhibits, including a designer with the National Archives facility in Kansas City, Mo., who visited the class and offered tips about interactive displays.

“In most classes, you’re writing papers, which is good, but this is a different way to think about history,” Ford said. “It looks like it should not be hard to do, but this was something that was hard for some people because they’re used to writing academic research papers and the labels need to be at a 10th-grade level.”

During their research, students also learned to find information from other resources than books or the internet. They pored over newspapers, photographs, directories, maps and journals, too.

For one part of the exhibit, students researched the food consumed in Nodaway County during the late 1800s and early 1900s. The exhibit highlights the foods typically served at festivals and church functions, but research on the topic was more difficult than students expected.

“Specific examples were hard to find because people didn’t talk about food at all,” said Louis Hageman, a senior humanities major from Independence, Mo. “Whereas today I feel good for future historians because they will have a plethora of information to draw upon.”

On education, the exhibit looks at the locations of schools, how instruction changed over time and the involvement of students, teachers and parents in the education process. The section also looks at the one-room Hickory Grove School and its movement from its original location to the Northwest campus and eventually to the Nodaway County museum site where it stands today.

Additionally, an agriculture section highlights how the railroad affected the livestock industry in Nodaway County and includes facts and images about the “poor farm.”

“Nodaway led the agriculture industry for almost a century and not just because of its corn,” said Logan Bethurem, a senior social science education from Marshfield, Mo. “We had nationally acclaimed beef herds, and it’s impressive that many of the government agencies that now help maintain certain herds came to be because of the sizable herds that were in Nodaway County.”

The exhibit also highlights Nodaway County history related to women, childhood, medicine, and celebrations during the late 1800s and early 1900s in Nodaway County. The exhibit displays, which are free and open to the public, are located inside the history museum as well as the Caleb Burns house across the street and the Hickory Grove School.


For more information, please contact:

Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
mhorn@nwmissouri.edu | 660.562.1704 | Fax: 660.562.1900

Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468