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Weekly Column

Each week a small segment of Vernon County history is published in the county papers.

For the week of 7/15/2018
by Kristen Parrott, curator

Time is running out to sign up for the children’s archaeology class on Friday, July 27. The kids will be studying garbage! Well, sort of. They’ll learn about what modern garbage says about modern people, and then apply what they learn to ancient “garbage”, the sorts of objects that archaeologists dig out of the ground. Archaeologists find stone points and broken bits of pottery, and the children will study those too.

The class will be held at the museum from 10AM to noon. Jean Dowiasch of the Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center in La Crosse will be teaching the class, which is suitable for kids going into grades three to twelve. The cost is $5 per child, maximum $15 per family. Pre-registration is required – please contact the museum at 637-7396 as soon as possible to sign up.

Several new exhibits are in the works at the museum, and one has just been completed. The newest exhibit is about underwear ! – yes, really. The museum has a large collection of late 19th and early 20th century women’s underwear. Think corset covers and white petticoats (plus green and blue and black and grey petticoats). I learned some surprising things about underwear while preparing this exhibit, mainly about how much and how quickly it has changed over time.

The new exhibit is called, “Doing More with Less: Changes in Women’s Underclothing,” and it continues our current focus on World War I. What does WWI have to do with underwear? Women’s roles in society increasingly changed during the war, as women moved into occupations previously filled only by men, who were now in the military. Also, women were gaining more legal rights during and just after the war, including the right to vote and to hold political office.

Expanding possibilities and responsibilities led to a need for less restrictive clothing. Multiple layers of voluminous underclothing shrank to just one or two layers of abbreviated underwear. Learn more by visiting this new exhibit, now on display on the museum’s third floor, which is accessible by both stairs and elevator.

Garbage and underwear: such tasteful subjects we discuss here at the Vernon County Museum! The study of history is changing rapidly, looking at previously ignored subjects, and we are changing right along with it.

Changes in Women’s Underclothing exhibit


For the week of 7/8/2018
by Carol Krogan, assistant curator

The Vernon County Museum staff would like to invite you to view a new exhibit recently completed. Thanks to one of our great volunteers, Maynard Cox, we now have an immigrant cabin display on third floor. (Don’t let that fact scare you; the museum has an elevator.) We have done our best to make the cabin authentic although it is a bit reduced in size.

The cabin scene gives the viewer an idea of how a single Norwegian immigrant may have lived circa 1875. We have outfitted it with the types of items that were most likely used by a settler at that time to survive in a new land. The wool coverlet on the bed was a wedding gift for George and Sarah (Herron) Morse who were married on July 2, 1871. The gun has a patent date of 1862 and was donated by Vic Navrestad in 1992.

The exhibit was a long time in the making. Assistant curator Carol Krogan had the idea over ten years ago. Things fell into place when Mr. Cox became a volunteer and he offered his construction skills. The issue of funding was a problem but along came SOUP, a community fundraising event coordinated by the Viroqua Chamber Main Street.

We applied and were chosen to present our fundraising idea at a SOUP event held at the Viroqua American Legion in August, 2016. Other presenters included the Vernon County Unit on Aging and WDRT radio. After all three presentations, WDRT’s project was chosen by the attendees. At this particular event, a local business offered a matching grant. After some deliberation by those representing WDRT, they elected to award the Museum the matching grant. Their generosity allowed us to purchase material to get our project started. Thank you to our friends at WDRT!

We hope you will put a visit to the Museum on your schedule for the summer and keep us in mind if you have friends or relatives visiting the area. The museum is easy to find; it is the big brick building with the green awning next to the Gundersen Lutheran Viroqua clinic.

Another great place to visit is the Sherry Butt House, located at 795 N. Main Street, Viroqua. The House is open on summer weekends from 1 – 5 through Labor Day. Built in 1870 by Col. Cyrus M. and Margaret Butt, the home has had just two owners, the Butt family and the Orbec and Hilda Sherry family who purchased it in 1948. It features furnishings from both families. The wood carvings of Roger “Doc” and Miriam Hatlem will be featured throughout the house this summer. We extend a special thank you to Doc for his generous donation.

An archaeology class will be held for children on Friday, July 27, from 10AM to noon at the Vernon County Museum. Jean Dowiasch, Education Coordinator at the Mississippi Valley Archeology Center in La Crosse, will be the instructor.

The study of garbology will allow students to look at modern-day garbage to determine how a modern family lives, which relates to how ancient people’s garbage tells how they lived. Budding archaeologists will also learn how professionals identify and determine the age of spearheads and arrowheads. In addition, students will learn about pottery reconstruction using modern plates to determine what a vessel would have been used for.

This class is suitable for children going into grades 3 – 12. Cost is $5.00 per child, and pre-registration is required. Contact the museum at 608-637-7396.

On Friday, August 10 we will be hosting our second annual Pork Chop dinner, to be held at the Sherry Butt House. For $10.00 you will receive a delicious pork chop, grilled by Maynard Cox. Your dinner will also include a baked potato, vegetable, fruit salad, roll, dessert, coffee and water.

Lots to do at the Vernon County Historical Society this summer!

Log Cabin Exhibit
The interior of a new cabin exhibit at the Vernon County Historical Museum.


The previous two articles:

July 1, 2018

June 24, 2018