Bates County Museum plans for April opening

By Lucas Lord

From displays covering both World Wars to shelves full of Coca-Cola merchandise, the Bates County Museum has planned several new exhibits for its grand reopening April 1.

With less than a month to go before the doors are once again open to the general public, museum Curator Peggy Buhr is busy preparing the new offerings.

“It’s been such a long time since we’ve had new exhibitions on display, so I’m really excited to come running out the museum gate in April with several new projects that we have been working tirelessly on,” said Buhr. “Right now, we have been working on three new displays. One is about the Coca-Cola bottling plant that used to be in Butler. The second one is full of memorabilia from all the high schools in the area in and around Bates County. Lastly, our largest and newest permanent edition is dedicated to World War II artifacts and memorabilia. I am really proud of that one.”

According to Buhr, she wanted to focus on World War II because December marked the 80th anniversary of the start of the war.

“Last December was the anniversary of the beginning of the war, so this year I really wanted to highlight that,” Buhr said. “We have had so many wonderful things donated through the years to us and not only through the military, but civilian items as well. We have ration books on display, victory gardens and that sort of thing. The exhibit really encompasses all aspects of life during that time. Anytime we have a lot of artifacts and a particular date like this comes up then it works well to tie them together.”

Once a Butler family-owned business, Butler’s Coca-Cola bottling plant is now itself an artifact.

“There were three generations of Oaks that lived and worked at that bottling plant,” Buhr said. “They had a grandfather, a father and a son who all worked there together throughout the years it was operating. Recently, they donated several really interesting pieces that weren’t just Coca-Cola merchandise, but were things involved in the bottling process. So that will be incredibly unique.”

Despite the museum’s limited finances, Buhr said every year she works hard to keep the museum as relevant as possible.

“That’s the problem with museum modernization. Technology changes so quickly that if you don’t have the wherewithal, the capabilities or the equipment to stay on top of it you can easily get left behind in the dust,” she said. “I don’t want that for our museum. I want us to remain relative and interesting.”

Despite its smaller size, Buhr said she is incredibly proud of the work her team has been doing, especially when it comes to preservation.

“When it comes to small museums and organizations like ours, we simply don’t have a budget that can accommodate large and fancy equipment, we have to do a lot of our work by hand,” Buhr said. “Working with paper artifacts is absolutely, positively my medium of choice. I know with technology it is quickly becoming simpler to scan papers and archive them that way, but I much prefer having something to hold in my hand.”

With spring upon us, Buhr said she hopes everyone takes a moment to visit the new exhibits and hopefully learn something new about their home.

“We have something for everyone,” Buhr said. “We are working diligently to make sure we open on time and have everything done and ready. We are working really hard to make that happen for everyone, so I hope people stop by.”

The Bates County Museum is located at 802 Elks Dr., Butler.