Kirsten Visits Pioneer Village

Last week my husband and I went on vacation. We had a great time; quality time just the two of us…oh, and Kirsten and Abby. Fortunately, though, he barely raised an eyebrow as I loaded them into the back seat as I explained that I would need them for photo ops.

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En route to our destination we stopped in Minden, Nebraska and spent an afternoon at the Harold Warp Pioneer Village: The Story of America and How it Grew. This museum is truly a gem and should be visited by anyone and everyone, especially if you are interested in American History. I had been there a couple of times as a kid, but this was my first time as an adult. When I was a kid I loved it because I could excitedly point out everything that was from Kirsten’s time period and as adult I loved it because…um…well, pretty much for the exact same reason! 🙂 In all seriousness, it’s like walking through a real life time capsule. Harold Warp, the founder and original owner of the museum, clearly spent much of his life collecting artifacts for the museum, and he started with personal items straight from his childhood. Born in 1903, he was the son of Norwegian immigrants who were homesteading near Minden, Nebraska. As an adult, he sought to preserve it by purchasing significant relics: his boyhood schoolhouse, church, and family barn among them. I should mention that my pictures aren’t great; the lighting in most of the buildings was very dim.

Here is a picture of the brochure, which will explain the museum/village much better than I can:


There were so many things to see that I can’t possibly describe them all, but Kirsten will help me highlight my favorites.

The historical doll display grabbed my attention. The rag dolls made me think of Kirsten and Addy of course, and the Kewpie dolls made me think of Rebecca, and the Shirley Temple dolls reminded me of when Emily told Molly she thought that his who she would look like! It’s amazing to think that dolls have meant so much to little girls for so many generations.

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A sod cabin! This is a replica built in the 1950s, but I think it is so impressive it’s been standing even that long! Wow! Kirsten and her family lived in a log cabin, since logs would have been a readily available building material in Minnesota, but so many homesteaders in the plains states used sod due to lack of trees (which makes it all the more ironic that Nebraska is the “Home of Arbor Day”). The sod house reminded me of Laura Ingalls living in her dugout on the banks of Plum Creek. Something else I thought was unbelievable–they said that particular sod house took TEN ACRES of prairie sod!

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Look at all these books! These were displayed in the one room school house that Harold Warp attended as a child. Some of them are from the 18th century! Books were such a luxury for centuries; imagine how a pioneer girl like Kirsten would have felt to see so many!

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One of the most interesting signs I read was in the Warp family barn, and I unfortunately did not get a good picture of it. I was so busy pondering its relevance to Kirsten that I was a bit distracted. It said that during the building of the barn (done with the family and neighbors, a common custom) the oldest Warp son asked his father if they could have a barn dance when it was finished. His father, being a good Christian, believed that dancing was sinful and to prevent any such activity from ever taking place in his barn, laid the floor planks rough side up so that they could not easily be danced upon. As a boy Harold Warp always found sweeping the barn to be a difficult chore, and it wasn’t until years later that he learned the reason behind his unnecessarily laborious toil.

This really made me think about how history is incredibly complex. It is so easy to read a history book or watch a documentary and say, “Oh, people in this time period did this.” There are SO many more factors, though! Geography is a huge one. Religion is a giant. Education, social class, family background, the list goes on. This is such a perfect example. It is easy for someone to think that since the Warps were Norwegian immigrants, the would behave just like Kirsten’s family. Obviously Kirsten is fictional, but her books portrayed having a barn dance which is a historically accurate event that plenty of Scandinavian immigrants would have taken part in, but evidently some were just as adamantly against it. History is amazing!

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Here is Kirsten inside of a covered wagon!

Something interesting about the experience is that it was a sort of historical paradox. While the museum was displaying almost two centuries worth of history, the museum itself (namely the buildings/facilities/signage) was its own piece of history. There was never any doubt that it was established in the 1950s. In fact, I think a person from the 50s or 60s could travel forward in time in their Delorean with a Flux Capacitor and have no idea that it was 2015 based on their experience at Pioneer Village. The typewritten signs definitely contribute to this feeling. While it is kind of cool that the museum has been so carefully preserved (preserved? neglected? it’s kind of hard to say), it’s almost a little unfortunate, because I think that the average kid in 2015 is going to have trouble relating. If it were modernized a bit maybe with more interactive displays and clear, colorful signage, it might be easier for kids to “get it”.

It was a great stop on our trip and I would highly recommend that everyone go at least once! Has anyone ever been here before and have thoughts? Has anyone ever been nerdy like me and taken their dolls to other museums?

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