Sunday, June 24, 2018
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New director has a full plate of plans for county museum

Wyoming native takes over operations.

Renovations to the Dawson County Historical Society Museum were not complete when a new museum director took over last October.

That’s because the museum ran out of funding for the expansion project started in 2003, according to director John Woodward.

Finishing the job, that includes raising about $400,000, is top on Woodward’s list as well as building up a volunteer base.

Another project has been boosted by a $170,000 grant from the state to renovate and expand the parking lot, create better access to two historical buildings, help handicap accessibility and improve a front door and flooring in the museum.

Woodward said the museum board and officials are now raising $40,000 in funds to match the grant.

The 27-year-old, from Riverton, WY, also wants volunteers to serve as docents at the museum and help with special projects, such as transcribing the oral histories of people from Dawson County.

Better rapport with other historical societies, from Gothenburg and Cozad, is on his list that includes putting together displays from the different towns.

“We want more county residents to tell their own stories because we’re the only ones who have that cultural and historical heritage,” he explained. “Dawson County has a unique history.”

Expanding the range of the museum’s educational outreach programs to schools and increasing the number of museum visitors is also a goal.

Woodward said they are working to expand the museum website, at, and extend their presence onto social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Woodward noted that he thinks the museum is the only county museum in Nebraska, with the exception of the Adams County Historical Society, that is open year round.

That’s all the more reason county residents, and others, should check out what is there, he said.

Woodward said museum officials, that include himself and research manager Eileen Lauby and staff assistant Carol Nelson, also take requests for research.

The new director has undergraduate degrees from the University of Wyoming in anthropology and history and a master’s degree in history.

He took the job in Lexington, succeeding former director Barbara Vondras, because he wanted to use his history degree and because an uncle once worked for the Nebraska Historical Society.

Other relatives, in the area, were from Lexington and Curtis.

At the moment, Woodward said he’s still learning the ins and outs of the non-profit organization.

For the first time in several years, the museum will have an annual meeting, on Saturday, March 24, at 1 p.m., which is open to the public.

After business items are finished, a Nebraska Humanities Council speaker will discuss “America and the Great War 1914-1918.”

For more information, call Woodward at the museum at 308-324-5340.

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