Post 736: The Sallows Military Museum makes progress…

The Sallows Military Museum is a small museum in Alliance, Nebraska, dedicated to those who served or are serving in the US military.

The old swimming pool bath house -- repurposed to be a military museum.

The old swimming pool bath house — repurposed to be a military museum.

It is in the old city swimming pool bath house, which the City of Alliance provided to the organization, and it has one paid employee — Suzan; one part-time employee – Jan; and a bunch of volunteers (me included) who come in to assist Suzan by being there so she can deal with a backlog of donated materials, housekeeping issues, and those all-important meetings all  administrators “get” to attend.

I go in for three hours on Wednesdays during the Winter Hours season, and probably will return to Thursdays for the Summer Season hours. Yeah, I’m a life member of the museum support group, too!

1000-piece puzzles often help pass the three hours. Some days, no visitors come in. Other days, whole groups do.

1000-piece puzzles often help pass the three hours. Some days, no visitors come in. Other days, whole groups do.

All of the exhibits are donations or lent items from local people with military materials, from veterans, family members of veterans, even random people who have items of interest who feel the museum can better conserve and preserve those materials.

WWII artifacts are most common, but there are items from many wars, from the US Civil War through Afghanistan.

WWII artifacts are common, but there are items from many wars, from the Revolutionary War through Afghanistan.

Suzan and Jan have made progress cleaning and organizing the collection since Suzan became the director of the museum. Material that came in during the period between the previous director’s last day and Suzan’s first day several months later created a backlog that continues to be her priority to catalog and work into the mix of displays.

Jan  (left) and Suzan work on a display update.

Jan (left) and Suzan work on a display update.

What is of particular interest to locals is how many men and women in these photos lining the shelves are the younger selves of people we often knew as parents of people we went to school with: Heroes hide among us! But time is thinning out the ranks, making the museum all the more important as a depository of the collective memory of a community’s military contributions.

Familiar faces in unfamiliar roles as defenders of American freedom. It is humbling!

Familiar faces in unfamiliar roles as defenders of American freedom. It is humbling!

One remarkable resource at the museum is a collection of veterans’ personal remembrances of their military service. Some include letters written from war zones, all detail the experiences of the veteran. These first source references probably need to be held in reserve for researchers at some point, but now sit on an open shelf where anyone with the time and interest can take them down and read through them.

37 thoughts on “Post 736: The Sallows Military Museum makes progress…

    • It’s a small but nicely done museum. As I noted elsewhere, I love small town museums for the quirky, eclectic, interesting little museums you often find in them. There are many little towns in this part of my state, but even the smallest one has a local historical museum started by citizens who recognized the need and who had the will to follow up on the idea of making one. The original historical museum in my town was in a sodhouse built just south of the then-new swimming pool, the bath house to which is the current Sallows Military Museum. Whew! A flood wiped out the sodhouse museum in the 1930s. In time, a local banker l;eft the city funds to start a new museum, which ultimately became the Knight Museum. When the Eldred family (ranchers) left a huge sum for an expansion of the museum into a museum that better illustrated the character of the characters (and they were!) who built this town and region, it was renamed the Knight Museum and Sandhills Center.

  1. A really interesting blog post, thank you. If you allow people to handle valuable and unique material, please be aware that not everybody is honest. Here in Nottingham, England, we have lots of problems with library and archive thieves, sadly.

    • I’ve mentioned this to the director, actually, because that is a concern of mine, too. There are instances of people stealing valuable historic documents from national institutions (Library of Congress, for example, and National Archives), and those places have serious security to control that.

    • That it is! It has limited financial help from the city, and relies a lot on volunteers and donations. With those limnited resources, however, it has become a small but meaningful addition to the attractions of this town.

        • Actually, that’s a good idea! I’ll have to run it past Suzan. Some people put restrictions on the use of the materials they loan or donate, but even if a blog weren’t possible, it’d be a good idea to have that material saved to a digital file. There might even be moneys available through the Nebraska State Historical Society and the Smithsonian for that sort of project, both of which have projects for similar purposes. It’s worth a review!

          • And as you know from cat blogs, once you get going you pick up readers from all over. Even if you don’t put up the whole doc, discussion and excerpts could attract searches. And it could be worked on a bit at a time for little to no cost

    • It is an easy museum to visit, takes just a little time to view, and makes a great starting point leading to the other museum (Knight Museum and Sandhills Center) in the city park. The second museum is more elaborate and nicely bankrolled, thanks to a ranching couple who left a large sum of money to the city to build and expand the original much smaller Knight Museum.

  2. It is great to know that you still volunteer at the museum. More communities should start these museums. Around here, you either travel to one of the large cities or forget it!

    • I personally love museums in small towns because they tend to be unpretentious, eclectic, oftentimes quirky places with rare treasures. The Sallows Military Museum is a labor of love for many people in this community and of people who have roots here. Little by little, it grows and gains more support.

        • Yes and no: There’s a basement with materials still in the process of being documented and added to the museum’s collection. The items on display can be viewed close up.

          • A lot of donated items are things an elderly relative who died left to the family to sort out. Many times the family has no interest in the item but recognizes it has some historic significance or might be suitable for the museum. The museum is a much better place for things than a closet or basement!

          • I have collected so much, I’ve been wondering who to leave them to. My other half’s family has no interest [except my father-in-law] and my family is gone; no small museum, etc.

          • I’d think the unit historians of the various units you’ve documented might have some ideas on that.

            Given the depth of information in your blogs, I can believe you do have a sizable amount of materials!

            I know how this can go. I have a 5000-6000 CD collection that probably will go into the trash because no one wants the old format (very old by the time I die, I hope!) or they have a better system for music reproduction by the time I’m history.

            Anyway, there surely is some military association or unit historian who don’t know they’d love to have your stuff down the road, and I hope you find that place or person! Good luck, GP!

          • You’re welcome! I certainly hope you find a place for your materials.

            I oftentimes am the one there when people bring in donations. Many times they’ll say things that suggest they were on the verge of tossing something out, but someone reminded them the Sallows Military Museum was around and might actually want the item about to be tossed.

            One example that comes to mind is a sample board of colors and fabrics that were used as a reference in decorating the living quarters of the US Army airbase that was here in Alliance during WWII. The contractor or architect made it up as a one-time reference, something you’d probably toss after the job was done.

            Someone saved it, framed it, then it ended up in the basement of the city municipal building for decades.

            A couple years ago, city people cleaned out the basement, came across the sample board, and one of them brought it in.

            He didn’t know if it was something the museum would want – it wasn’t that special he thought – yet it actually was something that documented, in color, what the place looked like.

            As far as I know, only black and white photos exist of the base, so the color swatches and pieces of fabric brought the black and white memories of what it was like to life!

            When I showed it to the director at the time, she wasted no time incorporating it into an exhibit of items from the air base. You never know what has value.

            Of course, you are the exception to the rule there in that you recognize the need to deal with your materials at some point, and that you need to have that sorted out while you are still around to work out the details! Who else but you knows how much time and effort you’ve gone to to put together the materials you have? Anyway, good luck again.

            So much of this personal stuff will be lost when the veterans die out, and I have great admiration for people like you and Pierre who are blogging military history as close to the ground as possible. You do the men and women you document proud!

          • It’s a gift you have to put a human face on that most inhumane of activities, war. Real people are in them, but we often get drawn into thinking of them as these missions full of faceless statistics about things and people lost, totals.

            Did I ever mention that the Dreden fire bombing, horrific as it was in human terms, didn’t register as a tragedy until I read that one of the things destroyed was an organ Johann Sebastian Bach actual played?

            War not only destroys lives, it destroys civilization, one historic organ, one irreplaceable Renaissance art treasure, one Medieval monastery, one 1000-year-old temple at a time.

          • As much as I detest what the Middle East countries stand for, I feel awful that so many of the temples and relics of their once-glorious history are being demolished. Any loss of history, to me, is a sin.

    • On the matter of items languishing in the basement…because of the way the museum grew and the size of the community, when people donate materials, they expect to see the material on display at some point when they come through with visiting family and friends (for example), so an effort is made to rotate materials to assure maximum use is made of the donated materials. I’ve had people ask to see specific material they donate, and it is great when I can say “check in the north room by the cannon” or something that points them to the item or items they generously donated! This is another reason I love small town museums. The communities they serve usually have a heavy emotional investment in the success of the museums, they are personal places!

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