A nationally recognized exhibition will debut in Beatrice this week.
“House and Home” is a traveling exhibition created by the National Endowment for the Humanities. The display is modeled after the flagship installation at The National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. It features an overview of architecture styles and living patterns that show how the ideal home has changed over time.
“House and Home” is not the first NEH exhibition to make its way to Beatrice. Main Street Beatrice hosted “Going Places” a couple of years ago. Main Street Executive Director Michael Sothan said it is rare for a city the size of Beatrice to host two traveling exhibits so close together. He credits the synergy of many local organizations for bringing “House and Home” to the Sunland.
“(The NEH) is trying to spread this out across the nation,” Sothan said. “They’re looking for, definitely, places that are working together. Because Beatrice has really shown an interest in this over the past few years, and we’ve shown that we can built that support base, they ended up deciding to come back to us.”
Sothan said many local organizations are hosting events and activities during and after the exhibit’s stay.
“Homestead (National Monument of America) is creating an exhibit to go along with it,” Sothan said. “That’s going to be opening the week after. The Gage County Museum is also creating an exhibit that’s going to go along with this with some of the things they have. That’ll be opening the week after that. Southeast Community College, their art group, is putting together an upcycled art exhibit at the library. Even Homestead Days kind of has a “house and home” theme to it. That’s going to be a theme for many of these organizations over the next year.”
The Beatrice Public Library is another entity hosting activities throughout the year with a “house and home” theme. The library hosted its first of six book discussions on Thursday, March 27. Carol Remmers led a discussion about the book “Women in Waiting in the Westward Movement: Life on the Home Frontier” by Linda Peavy and Ursula Smith. Library Director Laureen Riedesel said every book this year includes some aspect of home.
“In every one of these, there’s some aspect of ‘what is home? Where is your home? When is it you know you’re truly at home,’” she said.
Book discussions are cosponsored with the Homestead National Monument of America. Discussions are scheduled for 7 p.m. on April 24, May 15, June 26, July 24, August 28 and September 25. For a list of books and discussion locations, call Laureen Riedesel at 402-223-3244.
The exhibit itself is a 1,600-square-foot display with furniture, building materials, photographs, films and interactive components used to show the history of American homes over the past few centuries.
“You’re going to see some little artifacts from different homes from the 1700s up to today,” Sothan explained. “You’re going to see how homes have been built. Where have we put our homes, all of those different things. There’s tie-ins to the Homestead Act, which definitely ties right to Beatrice. Then there’s things we don’t really think about too much here like the different Native American homes and the Colonial homes. It’s really trying to capture that entire American story that all of us can relate to.”
Riedesel said the exhibition serves as a great way to market Beatrice and everything the city has to offer.
“To have a nationally recognized exhibit here is big,” she said. “My first question whenever we’re doing these things is ‘what’s this going to do for those of us who live here?’ This exhibit is not showing up in every small town, or even every large town, in Nebraska. It’s truly an opportunity to invite other people to our community. There’s nothing, in some ways, more appropriate than people coming to Beatrice, which is our home, where the Homestead National Monument is, which is all about people coming to America or moving around America and making something their home. I just thought it was a win-win all the way around.”
The “House and Home” exhibition opens at noon on Friday. An official ribbon cutting is scheduled for 2:30 Friday afternoon. The display, housed at 516 Court Street, just west of The Kensington, will remain open from noon until 6 p.m. Thursday through Monday each week until Memorial Day. Admission is free of charge thanks to funding by Humanities Nebraska, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Mid-America Arts Alliance.