Pioneer Museum opens for season May 15
HOT SPRINGS – Among three floors and multiple rooms of old things, it is some new additions that has the staff at the Pioneer Museum excited for the upcoming season. The Museum, which sits atop a hill in downtown Hot Springs, opens for the summer season on May 15.
Most exciting, according to museum board president Dave Purtill, is the museum’s newly renovated archive rooms in the building’s lower level. The space at one time was a caretaker’s apartment and the boys’ bathroom when the building was the Hot Springs School. Now it gleams with new paint, lighting and storage shelving.
“Here are past issues of old newspapers,” Purtill said last week while conducting a mini-tour of the rooms. “Hot Springs Stars, Oelrichs papers, even copies of the newspaper from Cascade are here.” The museum also has copies of scrapbooks referencing the Miss S.D. Pageant, dating back to the start of the pageant in the late 1940s.
An adjacent room hums with two freezers that contain boxes of celluloid film negatives, many donated from the archives of Stevens Photography, a longtime photo studio in the area. Next door to that room is an open space, where museum patrons will be able to do research using items in the newly completed archive rooms.
The museum’s old archive room was on the third floor, where the more sensitive documents, photos and fabrics were subjected to temperature fluctuations as well as sunlight and dust around a window in the room.
The archive room work was completed with funding from the Mary Chilton DAR Foundation in Sioux Falls. Local contractors did the work and volunteers at the library completed the task of moving the items downstairs to the new spaces.
“Now,” Purtill said, “we continue the job of going through boxes and boxes of items, cataloging and then storing in the appropriate places.” He said that the museum is always on the lookout for people wishing to volunteer to help, be it at the front desk, cataloging archive contents – with staff oversight – or in other places in the old sandstone building.
The third-floor space where the archive room formerly lived will be turned into a Christmas room.
Another new – or returning – exhibit at the Pioneer Museum is the photo quilt that was raffled at this year’s Fall River History Conference in January. The quilt, constructed by Ginny Coats, Jan Weisser and an anonymous third sewer, was won by Florence Jost of Hot Springs. Jost donated the historic quilt back to the museum, and it has found a permanent home on the second floor.
“We are so grateful to Florence for donating the quilt back to the museum,” said raffle quilt organizer Charlotte Baldwin. Baldwin said that the $2,300 raised through the raffle will go toward the museum’s ongoing campaign to raise funds to add air conditioning to the public areas.
Less noticeable but possibly more important is the continuing project to tuckpoint the sandstone blocks of the old school. A portion was done two years ago, with a grant from the South Dakota Historical Society and a second $15,000 grant has been secured to complete more of the work. Purtill said that there is a fundraising effort to provide matching funds for this grant.
All in all, it is shaping up to be a summer season of newfound treasures in new spaces, all at the Pioneer Museum. The museum is open May 15 to Oct. 15, Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. They can be reached at 745-5147.