CALLAWAY - - The old saying, “good things come in small packages”, certainly holds true with the Seven Valleys Museum in Callaway. Though not a large community, this little town boasts one of the nicest museums in the area - and thanks to the efforts of a lot of local volunteers, it is getting even nicer.
The Seven Valleys Historical Society began a major restoration project on the museum the first of this year. They are calling it “Facelift Project 2013.”
This spring, the society was awarded a grant from the Custer County Foundation in the amount of $3,500 to help with the project. That money, along with private donations and money collected in various fundraisers, are being utilized to complete some much needed repairs and restorations. The historical society also draws funds from a small tax levy and donations from visitors and supporters.
The Seven Valleys Historical Society was founded in 1966, in an effort to preserve the history of the community and its forefathers’ ways of life. The museum and annex are home to thousands of artifacts that document the area’s history. The society also works to maintain the original Callaway Episcopal Church as well as the Log Cabin in Morgan Park, which was the first Custer County Courthouse.
The society “staff” is a group of dedicated volunteers, some of whom have been working at the museum every day since Jan. 1 on the facelift project. Since the first of the year, more than 3,000 volunteer hours have been logged at the museum by many individuals.
So far this season more than 500 people have signed the guest book, representing 21 states plus Nebraska, and two foreign countries.
The “facelift project” not only addresses structural issues of the museum, but also improves the display areas. With the addition of new shelving and a re-working of the existing space, the museum is now able to display many artifacts that were in storage.
When doing a walk-through in January, board members discovered leaks around some windows in the back of the building and on the roof. This also lead to some interior water damage, but no damage to any of the artifacts or display items.
The roof has since been repaired and back side windows resealed by Weather Craft. Some ceiling tiles had to be replaced, and much of the interior of the museum has been repainted. Some new electrical outlets have also been added, and there is still some wiring work left to complete.
New signage has been added to the front of the museum, along with a new city map.
Renovation projects currently being worked on include tuck pointing on the north, east and south walls, sealing the back bricks and installing a chain link fence behind the Annex. Both of these projects were written into the grant and are being partially funded by that money.
A new quilt rack and shelving have been added for display purposes, getting these items off the counter where they had been and making them more visible for visitors. New displays have been added and some rearranging also done at the Annex.
One of the most popular additions to the museum has been the genealogy and research center. Information on everyone buried in one of the Seven Valleys cemeteries can be found in the research center. This project was taken on by Gary Glendy, who has devoted countless hours to obtaining and organizing the information.
It is all categorized by each cemetery, all in alphabetical order. Each page of history contains a person’s name, birth and death information, parents and copy of their obituary where possible. Some of them have pictures of the individuals or pictures of their gravestone.
Gary says he has compiled information from 17 area cemeteries, and approximately 5,000 burials - both in marked and unmarked graves. He says he has been surprised at the number of people who have come in to the museum to utilize that resource.
He is currently organizing wedding announcements and local people buried in national cemeteries.
“This committee has done a lot to revitalize this museum and make it accessible - and the community has done a great job of supporting us. We appreciate that!” says Brenda Still, secretary/treasurer of the Seven Valleys Historical Society. “We want people to know the heritage is here and want them to come and enjoy it. We would like to see more members involved in the historical society, especially from the younger generations, to learn the heritage of their community.”
The work at the Seven Valleys Museum is on-going and the list of projects is growing. The historical society accepts any and all gifts to help them sustain and enrich the museum and its programs. Any donations may be mailed to: Seven Valleys Historical Society, Attn: Brenda Still, P.O. Box 293, Callaway NE 68825.
If you would like to visit the museum but find it closed, there is a sign by the front door with a list of names and telephone numbers. Seven Valleys Historical Society Chairperson Donna Glendy says any one of those individuals will be more than happy to open the museum for visitors.