Focusing on the rich agricultural history of northwest Kansas, this new exhibit is now on display in the Prairie Museum's Cooper Barn


Thanks to a successful conclusion of the Barn AID fundraising campaign that recently ended at the Prairie Museum, we are proud to announce this new exhibit has finally taken center stage in the Cooper Barn as a premier interpretation of agriculture, showcasing over 100 years of photos and artifacts. This newly restyled exhibit inlcudes thirty graphic panels that tell about agriculture on the high plains.


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A Word from Our Education Director

Any of you who remembers the first Cooper Barn exhibit, Prairie Grasses to Golden Grains, knows that it covered pretty much everything about life on the High Plains, from Native American times into the 1990s. Since that time, exhibits in other buildings at the Prairie Museum were created to tell the stories of sod house living, town-building, war years and the Great Depression, among many others. This meant that we could finally focus almost exclusively on agriculture in the Cooper Barn. Though it seems like this should have reduced the amount of content, in fact we had the same old problem -- more stories and information than we had room to tell.

Our intent was to provide some general information about agricultural history while at the same time honing in on the specifics of farming in this region. The title "High and dry" is meant to reflect how altitude and scarcity of both surface water and precipitation have shaped the practice of agriculture in western Kansas. The exhibit starts with the influx of settlers in the 1880s, and takes us up to the present day.

One of the most enjoyable parts of preparing this exhibit was reading through the many family histories and other accounts of Thomas County farm families from which we extracted quotes for the exhibit panels. The accounts were interesting, often entertaining, and gave a good picture of the challenges and rewards of farm life. As usual, there were more great stories and photographs than we could fit on the panels. Our hope is that we can find ways to incorporate some of this additional material both online and throughout the exhibit by creating digital tours.

We still have work to do. There are a few panels to complete, including those that describe artifacts. We will be creating family-friendly, hands-on opportunities and we hope to create a traveling exhibit that can be loaned to regional museums and other institutions. Our future goals include opening the harvest part of the exhibit in the front room of the storage building. Stay tuned!

-Ann Miner


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