The Neville Public Museum
The Neville Blog
The Neville Public Museum is proud to hold in our collection a signed photograph of the president and his son Tad, taken in 1864. Lincoln rarely signed photographs, but two signed copies were gifted to the president's secretary Gustav Matile about one year before Lincoln's death. After Lincoln was assassinated, Matile worked as a lawyer in Minnesota and then served as U.S. Court Commissioner for Wisconsin's Eastern District in Green Bay. When Matile died in 1908, he gave the photograph to the Kellogg Public Library where it was kept until sold to the Green Bay & De Pere Antiquarian Society in 2007.
The image was used on popular commemorative cards and prints after Lincoln's death, but the Neville Public Museum holds one of the only two known original prints, and the president's signature makes this photograph exceptionally uncommon.
On April 23, 1983 the Neville Public Museum of Brown County opened the doors of our current building to the public. In celebration of our building’s anniversary and of our continued partnership with the Green Bay Art Colony we installed a new Little Free Library on our grounds. Our Little Free Library is modeled after the building that started it all, the former Kellogg Library, and honors the Green Bay Art Colony.
A Little Free Library is a “take a book, return a book” free book exchange. Little Free Library book exchanges have a unique, personal touch. There is an understanding that real people are sharing their favorite books with their community; Little Libraries have been called “mini-town squares.” We're so excited to bridge communities and connect generations through our new Little Free Library!
Helen is one of several special women that lived here in Brown County that valued the arts and the preservation of history. Helen’s dedication to preservation of history is most evident in her hard work to make our current museum building a reality. Helen served as President of the Neville Public Museum Corporation. Before 1983 the museum sat in a smaller and less conducive building on Jefferson St. Helen fought for a new facility that was eventually supported by the county, the city, and private donors, a true community project. Here is Helen breaking ground with the County Executive, the Mayor, and the Museum Director.
We have several artifacts in our collection that reflect Helen’s continued dedication to education, local history and the arts. The collection includes a diary, scrapbooks and letters from her time in London in 1948 and 1949 when she participated in the Teacher Exchange Program. We also care for awards given to her for her many accomplishments in education and here at the museum. Helen’s focus on education and interest in history led her to co-author the text book “It Happened Here” in 1949. We have a copy of it in our research library. Later in life she continued her education by taking different art courses. Works of art she created are also held in our collection.
The museum is thankful for people like Helen that continually support our mission and fight to preserve local history and engage the arts.
Fortunately, a large portion of the research on the guns was already done. Considering the generosity of our donors, the importance that firearms played in the establishment of Green Bay, and the significance of Fort Howard, the museum has hosted a number of exhibits featuring guns and other weaponry. Dresses however, not as much. Although the fashion collection is quite large and the donors just as generous, there hasn’t yet been an occasion to “dress up”… until now.
One of the biggest challenges we faced when choosing artifacts for this event was something that wasn’t apparent from the start. The initial idea for the event was to use time periods where we knew we would have a good selection of firearms, and then find gowns to match. However, as we searched through collections it became clear that the periods for which we had some of the most interesting guns, typically wartime, were also times when, for many reasons, fashion was not a priority.
The Civil War and WWII periods were the most challenging. The Neville certainly has dresses from both era’s but few of them, if any, reach “gown” status. Most of them are either practical, every-day type fashions, or made specifically for a purpose or job. It was more important for most people during wartime to keep their families safe and fed, than to worry about frills and bows.
For example, the beautiful gun-metal grey wedding dress we will be displaying alongside our Civil War firearms was originally worn in 1853 by Louisa Gardner. At this time it still would have been relatively uncommon for women to wear white on their wedding day. Often they would either wear their best dress to the ceremony, or have a dress made which they could also use on other occasions. This wedding dress was worn again a decade later by Gardner’s stepdaughter, Mrs. O.C. Ely but we don’t know for certain why. Considering how beautiful this gown is even over 160 years later, it may have been reused because it was such a lovely dress, or because it was a family heirloom. It may also be possible that it was practical choice in uncertain times, or some combination of reasons.
In the case of the Civil War and WWII dresses, as often happens when doing historical research, the lack of evidence or artifacts is just as interesting as having a lot to choose from.
#1 Life and Death at Fort Howard
This immersive experience leads visitors through tales of murder, lost love, and even whiskey smuggling. You’re transported back 200 years when Green Bay was home to a booming fur trade. In 1816, the U.S. Army threw themselves into the mix. What happens when soldiers from the east coast are forced into a community of French, Métis, and Native peoples? You’ll have to see the exhibit to find out.
Fort Howard went beyond the exhibit floor- it was the subject of several interesting programs including public archaeology of the site and a lively performance of the fort’s biggest foe, Ebenezer Childs by Let Me Be Frank Productions.
The exhibition opened in April 2016 and doesn’t close until April 2017. This means you still have time to check it out!
#2 Morbid Curiosities
When we started planning to pull out some of our morbid artifacts for a special Halloween event, we weren’t certain what the response would be. We sure were surprised when the event for only 25 people quickly sold out. The team ended up accommodating more than 150 people that evening. Visitors shared their haunted experiences and were able to explore morbid artifacts and their stories not usually on display.
If you missed it this year make sure to get tickets early for next year’s Halloween- themed event!
#3 #NevilleCats and Feline Fine
We were overwhelmed by the response to our Instagram contest #NevilleCats. Cat lovers were able to submit photos of their feline friends and winners were chosen for display in the museum. In the end we had over 1,000 photos submitted! All of this accompanied the traveling exhibition Feline Fine. Feline Fine featured art in all different mediums from artists all over the country. The works for art depicted all different kinds of cats, from our favorite household pets to African Lions.
#4 Nebula Jars and Explorer WednesdayTo accompany our astronomy exhibit, Eyes on the Sky, our educator thought it would be fun to create nebula jars on Explorer Wednesday in August. This also had an overwhelming response and we’re grateful to have been able to share this experience with over 100 families.
Explorer Wednesday is every first Wednesday of the month during our free night for Brown County residents.
#5 Ice Age Imperials
This traveling exhibition not only transported visitors back in time but also allowed them to touch fossils! It’s not every day you get to touch a dire wolf tooth or giant sloth claw. The arrival of this exhibit was a great chance for us to pull out some fossils from our collection, including our mammoth tusk from Alaska!
There were so many more events and exhibits that helped make 2016 a great year for the Neville. Did we miss your favorite? Comment and let us know what your favorite exhibit/event/program was this past year!
Guests enjoyed great food, a silent auction, entertainment from the John Kelley Duo and Shawn Connelly & Jordan Christianson, and several activity stations including a photo opportunity, a demo by the local chapter of the Embroiderers Guild of America, a Rug Display by the Green Bay & De Pere Antiquarians, a demo of a historic card game, Bruce the Spruce, an Archaeology station and more.
The success of the event was attributed to the participation of over 130 guests, the sale of 38 silent auction baskets/experiences, and Lego Lambeau Fan Sales. We had the generous support of many silent auction donors, 18 table and station sponsors and individual ticket buyers. We also benefited from generous discounts and outright donations by our supportive vendors. Many thanks are extended to all involved.
On behalf of the Foundation Board of Directors and the planning committee, we extend a special thank you to all of our sponsors, donors, volunteers and guests that helped make the event a great success! We greatly appreciate your support in helping to create a community legacy of bridging communities and connecting generations!
Executive Director, Neville Public Museum Foundation
One of the two photography displays I created was During the Winter which features photographs of the H.C. Prange Co. department store. Coming into this process I had no idea what the store was, since the last store closed the year I was born. But after doing research and talking to members of the Neville staff and family members I was awed by the impression the store left on its visitors. H.C. Prange Co. was known for its magical window displays, especially during the holiday season.
Here are some of my favorite photos including H.C. Prange Co. and other winter scenes.
I was able to learn so much about Green Bay’s pastime and the wonderful holiday joy the department store was able to spread. Being able to set up the two exhibits was far more than I imagined doing. I am thankful that I was able to learn how to handle objects and photographs, scan photos, and prepare them for display. I even learned some history of Northeastern Wisconsin.
Explore Holiday Memories and During the Winter now through January 15, 2017!
This past July museum staff came across an interesting post on Facebook. Karl Vieau, a former H.C. Prange Co. employee shared this photo of what looked like a circus mirror.
Karl asked "Does anyone remember the circus mirror on 2nd floor mezzanine, kids department at the H.C. Prange store downtown Green Bay?"
If you know anything about the museum’s holiday displays, you know we are home to more than 50 figurines that once graced the Washington St. windows at H.C. Prange Co. in downtown Green Bay. Each year the museum puts together holiday displays with these figurines. The connection to the museum was obvious to us and to Facebook commenters. Museum Director, Beth Lemke commented herself inviting Karl to contact her about moving it to the museum.
After meeting with Karl it was clear how special this piece was to him and his memories of H.C. Prange. He graciously donated it to the museum for our holiday display. Now you can see the mirror for yourself right outside the Children Only Shop at the museum.
Holiday Memories is open November 18th through January 15th!
Working in a museum, I get to see plenty of interesting artifacts. Some are more widely recognizable and well researched and others are much more mysterious. One of our mysterious artifacts is this object- the wooden monowheel. While there are other monowheels in collections across the country, this is the only known one made of wood rather than metal.What is a monowheel?
This rare artifact is a self-propelled mode of transportation, much like a unicycle. The big difference is the rider sits on the wooden seat inside the big wheel. The rider uses the hand cranks to move the inner smaller wheel which transfers motion to the larger outer wheel with the stars.What do we know about the monowheel?
This monowheel was collected by Frank Duchateau in the early 1900s. He donated it to the museum in 1943. According to a letter received by Duchateau in 1922, the monowheel was made by a Mr. Rowe in the 1860s. It was first exhibited at the old museum on the corner of Jefferson and Doty Streets and was kept on display when the museum moved here. In 2014, the monowheel was conserved and traveled to Madison and Appleton to be included in the exhibit Shifting Gears: A Cyclical History of Badger Bicycling.What don’t we know about the monowheel?
We know a little about the monowheel but we are still missing some key pieces of information. Why did Mr. Rowe create the monowheel? What was it used for? Are there other pieces like the monowheel in other collections?
The answer to all of these questions is – we don’t know. We can speculate what the piece was used for but without more information we can never be sure. However, just because we cannot be sure does not mean the monowheel is not important. This one-of-a-kind artifact is an excellent example of how the museum has collected, displayed and cared for artifacts throughout the last century.The monowheel is now back at the museum and on exhibit in On the Edge of the Inland Sea. Check it out for yourself!
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- Top 5 Moments at the Museum in 2018
- A Night at the Museum 2018
- Women's History Month: Irene (Metoxen) Moore
- Native American Heritage Month: Rev. Cornelius Hill
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