Do you remember the last time you moved? The chaos of boxes and packing material covering every available inch of floor and that unsettling feeling of everything being out of place?
That’s where we’ve been at lately.
When the memberships of the North Platte Valley Museum and Farm And Ranch Museum voted back in August 2012 to bring the two museums together to form Legacy of the Plains Museum, moving day seemed very far away.
Luckily, an incredibly dedicated group of collections committee volunteers stepped up to help with the challenge of moving the entire contents of the North Platte Valley Museum 3.6 miles up the Oregon Trail to the Legacy of the Plains Museum location.
NPVM opened to the public in 1969 and has been in its present location at the corner of 11th and J Streets in Gering since 1974. As you can imagine, the museum has collected a large number of artifacts during that time.
The first step the collections committee volunteers took was to develop a comprehensive inventory of every item in the museum gallery. These volunteers, from the museum collections committee, three Questers groups, four P.E.O. chapters, the Bettys Club, and the community at large, logged more than 750 volunteer hours inventorying and labeling more than 6,000 artifacts. A single dedicated volunteer typed the entire inventory list into the computer so it can be searched and sorted.
Meanwhile, in the archive, a volunteer organized, inventoried, and boxed shelves of books, papers, and other research materials. Each box was labeled with a shelf number. Over at FARM, volunteers cleared a space in the archive to receive the NPVM materials. Before NPVM closed to the public on August 16, a crew of volunteers moved all the archival materials into their new home in the LPM archive.
Once NPVM closed, all of those labeled artifacts in the gallery were packed into boxes labeled with an exhibit number. We are grateful to Western Nebraska Moving & Storage for providing many of the boxes and packing materials.
Volunteers with crow bars and power tools descended to begin disassembling the railings and partition walls. To clear more room to work, a few easily-movable wheeled artifacts were packed with a few associated artifacts and then pulled, trailered or driven up to LPM. (One of the wagons was pulled by mule power – admittedly a fun publicity stunt.)
With more floor space available, the assorted boxes of artifacts were then packed into crates that were also labeled with exhibit numbers. Items like furniture that were too large to go into crates got a label “F” for furniture, along with their exhibit number. Display hardware (like exhibit cases) was labeled with “D” for display.
Then the moving began. In between multiple flatbed trailer loads hauled by volunteers, a 53-foot trailer donated by Nebraska Transport Company pulled up to the back of the museum. Volunteers using pallet jacks and a forklift loaded pallets of artifacts onto the trailer. At the LPM site, volunteers unloaded the pallets and larger objects and put them into a temporary storage area that was organized by exhibit number.
Soon, Russell’s Excavation & Construction will pack up and haul some of the heavier items, like the linotype and printing press.
This moving process will continue as weather and volunteer availability permit until all the final odds and ends are packed up and hauled away and the museum gallery is filled with nothing more than echoes. (Until the City of Gering moves in, that is. The city is purchasing the building to use as a parks maintenance HQ building.)
So, how do you move a museum?
With a whole lot of help from amazingly dedicated volunteers and supportive local businesses.
Thank you, everyone!