This past weekend, my family and I traveled to Nebraska to visit the Ashfall Fossil Bed State Park. What an amazing site. Very similar in ideals to our own Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village. Located out in the middle of nowhere we were surprised to find it, much less to find as many people visiting it as there were on that very warm sunny Sunday afternoon. I met with the founding paleontologist, Mike Voorhies, and the park’s superintendent, Rick Otto. We shared stories of museum life and the trials of raising funds. I had wanted to see how Ashfall succeeded since they are a State Park. I learned that while Nebraska owns the land and the park it does not fund the park. Much like the Prehistoric Indian Village: the City of Mitchell owns the land, which is a designated National Landmark and National Historic Site, but does not fund the Indian Village. We have to raise the funds ourselves to keep the doors open. Why, then, are we all doing this?
Here at the Indian Village, we offer school groups and other groups an incomparable experience in learning about our distant past – one that is not taught in the schools. Community programs, such as our recent Evening of Storytelling and Friendship and our upcoming Skytelling Evening, bring inexpensive and unique entertainment and Native culture to the residents of our community. It is, however, an ongoing struggle to raise funds for these community events. The events themselves are not designed to raise money but to raise community awareness; they are for the community to enjoy. When the community enjoys what we do, they support us in our endeavors. Most importantly, though, when the community enjoys what we do, we want to do more for the community. It is the same for all other regional and small museums.
Not everyone can be a “Fairy Godmother” for their community museum. But everyone can show their support just by visiting the museum, showing it to visiting friends and relatives, attending the unique special events and, if the community museum has a membership plan such as ours does, join the museum to show continued support. A little from many will go a long way!