Forgotten vintage items stored in basements and barns have been assembled to form convincing period locations.
Students showing school pride and ready for the big game stand in one room, while children playing with baby dolls, wooden houses and watching “The Mickey Mouse Club” are placed in another.
Other rooms depict a wedding chapel full of brides in their dresses, yet another has a perfectly posed tavern, right down to the “lit” cigarette.
The Johnson County Historical museum has artifacts spanning nearly 150 years, from roughly the 1830s to the 1970s.
The museum opened in 2014 in the historic building at 289 Clay Street, and uses mannequins to depict life in Johnson County over the years.
Sarah Williamson, president of the Johnson County Historical Society, said they previously had artifacts in an old church. But since the church was starting to decay and had standing water in the basement, the exposure made objects moldy, rotten and moth-eaten.
After their current building was donated and they started organizing the museum, Williamson said community members started contributing their own artifacts they had lying around. She explained that all labor, construction and artifacts come from donations and volunteers.
“Sometimes we don’t even know what we’re looking for,” Williamson said. “They just come to us, and we make do with what it is.”
Williamson explained that in order to create the authentic feel, she’s had to create some pieces herself.
For example, due to the men’s and children’s clothing being worn out, Williamson made a dress using an authentic, floral-printed sack that was donated. This was a common way to make women’s and girl’s dresses during the Great Depression.
When the woman who donated the sack saw the dress, Williamson said she spoke about reliving the memory.
Williamson said that several attendees come to remember the past, while others get to experience it for the first time.
“The kids will go over, never played with a dollhouse, never played with a tea set,” Williamson said. “They’re all electronic now, so a lot of this is very interesting to them.”
Williamson said the Historical Society has a country school they’d like to move closer to the museum for convenience in touring.
They are also working on a new exhibit highlighting travel and agriculture in the county. Williamson said she is working on sewing a bonnet for a covered wagon that was donated from Elk Creek.
The exhibit is expected to open in late September or early October.
The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10a.m. to 2p.m.
Williamson said they also open for special events, because “we always try to be open to the public when the public wants to come.”