County’s ‘Way We Worked’ exhibit was true labor of love - Republic-Times | News

County’s ‘Way We Worked’ exhibit was true labor of love

By on August 30, 2012 at 2:36 pm
Scrapbook Ladies | History Museum of Monroe County

Monday night at Waterloo City Hall, volunteers Margarette Schrader and Mary Vahlkamp display the three scrapbooks they made as a historical record of this summer’s “The Way We Worked” and “Lure of the Land” exhibits at the History Museum of Monroe County. (Corey Saathoff photo)


Much was written about this summer’s successful traveling Smithsonian exhibit “The Way We Worked” and local companion piece “The Lure of the Land” at the History Museum of Monroe County in Waterloo, and for good reason.

But final numbers released Monday night by museum society officials during the Waterloo City Council meeting at City Hall show just how much of an impact this display had on the community — as well as the tireless work ethic displayed by hundreds of volunteers to put on such an immense project.

The numbers are impressive: a total of 4,136 visitors attended the exhibits and ancillary events held over six weeks, coming from 23 different states and 149 different zip codes.

The economic impact of this exhibit and events was reported to be between $20,845 and $73,510.

History Museum Society President Norma Reheis said Monroe County’s display was easily one of the strongest Smithsonian showings in the state.

A required “close-out report” — to be sent to both the Smithsonian Institution and Illinois Humanities Council — was recently completed as part of hosting this historic event.

“We hope we get high marks,” Reheis said. “We’re pretty sure we will.”

As part of this report, local scrapbooking lovers Margarette Schrader and Mary Vahlkamp dedicated 800 volunteer hours of their time filling 372 pages in three books with photos, articles, survey responses and other important items for a historical record of this exhibit.

“We wanted it to reflect all of our work,” Schrader said.

The Smithsonian Institution and Illinois Humanities Council will each receive one book, while the remaining book will remain on display inside the history museum in Waterloo.

The work of these two women were supported many times over by countless other volunteers as part of this county’s successful exhibit. A total of 235 volunteers contributed 7,268 hours to make everything possible, according to the final report. Waterloo Junior High School science teacher Deb Clinebell is among that list — she compiled all of the data as part of the analysis.

“I’m really proud of Monroe County and the 235 people who made this a success,” Clinebell said Monday night. “This is a place where people want to stay once they come here.”

Clinebell especially praised Reheis for spearheading the entire project, adding that many people also thanked former Valmeyer mayor and current Monroe County Clerk Dennis Knobloch for his tireless dedication to the “Lure of the Land” local exhibits.

Calculated at the Smithsonian’s required rate of $20.25 per volunteer hour, Monroe Countians contributed the equivalent of $147,177 toward this exhibit.

“All of us in Monroe County seem to want to help each other out,” Waterloo Mayor Tom Smith said in praise of the many volunteers in attendance Monday night at City Hall.

The mayor added he was especially happy to see a mix of all ages helping out with the project.

“We have to have younger people involved in history,” Smith said. “Or else it will die on the vine.”

Of the 4,136 visitors to the exhibit, 1,419 completed a survey about their experience. And the results were overwhelmingly positive.

“It was very interesting to see the growth and changes in various industries,” one attendee wrote. “It was also interesting to see changes in society due to changes in industry. Our family enjoyed the exhibit and learned a lot!”

Another person wrote that the exhibit was a “very dramatic realization of how much the workplace has changed in 100 years. Appreciation for the hard work my parents and grandparents had to do.”

Of the survey respondents, 44 percent were first time visitors to the museum; 40 percent heard about the exhibit by reading it in a newspaper and 57 percent were over the age of 61.

To view the final report of this summer’s exhibit and supporting materials, visit the History Museum of Monroe County, located at 724 Elaine Street, Waterloo, between noon and 3 p.m. on Saturdays or Sundays.

For more information, call 939-5008 (leave a voicemail if no answer.)

(This article appeared in the Aug. 29 edition of the Republic-Times newspaper)


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Corey Saathoff

Corey is the editor of the Republic-Times. He has worked at the newspaper since 2004, and currently resides in Columbia. He is also the principal singer-songwriter and plays guitar in St. Louis area country-rock band The Trophy Mules.