Heritage Center seeks historical display ideas

In an effort to encourage the public to visit Monticello’s Heritage and Cultural Center, their board is asking for the public’s help. Displays such as this highlighting the football career of Mike Dirks, can be seen throughout the building. All items are on loan from the owner, and on display for all to see, to learn from, and to enjoy. (Photos by Kim Brooks)

One of the unique displays inside the Heritage Center is that of Debby Schneiter Schoon’s professional horse racing career. Each display is up for six months, giving people the chance to see more of Monticello’s fun history.
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     The Monticello Heritage and Cultural Center is changing some things up inside the renovated facility.

     Known as the city’s unofficial historical museum, the Heritage board, made up of volunteers, wants the public’s help in displaying pieces of local history.

     Every six months, the board hopes to change their displays to continue to draw people in. Right now, they have several display cases featuring local legends Debby Schneiter Schoon, Gus Norlin, and Mike Dirks. Each display contains items on loan from the individual or family members.

     Schoon’s display includes her history in professional horse racing. In 1991, she was kicked by a horse while trying to mount him and came close to death. Schoon retired from her horseracing career in 1992. She raced for 12 years, rode in 1,500 races, and had close to 350 wins.

     Many might assume Norlin was originally from Monticello, but that’s not the case. He lived here from 1947-95. He served as mayor for three terms. He co-owned and operated an auto parts store for several decades as well.

     Norlin generously contributed toward this city’s historic preservation. He helped establish Camp Courageous. He helped to start the Jones County Historical Society and museum district at Edinburgh. He was co-chair of Monticello sesquicentennial in the mid-1980s.

     The Norlin display, put together by Gus’ daughter Pam Foley, contains many mementos of her father’s life in Monticello.

     Dirks’ display tells you all about his football career in Monticello, playing for the Canadian league, and playing 11 years for the NFL Philadelphia Eagles. Dirks’ wife, Connie, even put together a special scrapbook full of photos just for the Heritage Center display.

     There are also temporary displays throughout the Heritage Center featuring Franklin Industries, the Monticello Fire Department, and one display of local history by the Monticello Questers organization.

     When the newly revamped Heritage Center opened earlier this year, people submitted ideas for temporary displays. Bob Hendricks, Heritage board member, said they’ve been contacting people who left their contact information about organizing historical displays.

     “We give those people a couple months notice,” he said of bringing in new ideas.

     Every display is Monticello-related. And Hendricks encouraged people to write up a short story about the display items so people know what they’re looking at.

     “We want displays for different interests for different ages,” he said.

     Items that enter the Heritage Center on loan, or those that are donated, are cataloged and listed electronically in their database. Everything receives a number for easy access, retrieval and getting it back to the owner.

     “We register the items and then they go out for display,” said Hendricks.

     Recently, a couple of local Boy Scout groups have toured the Heritage Center. Hendricks said people young and old are finding something of interest inside.

     “We try to do interactive events and programs,” he said.

     If you want to spend some time at the museum, take part in the scavenger hunt. There are different questions for each group/individual to answer. The questions take you literally throughout the museum to find the answers. Hendricks warned many of those answers are right in front of you; you don’t have to look hard. Those who successfully complete the scavenger hunt can win a prize.

     Hendricks said people are always surprised when someone they know ends up in one of the scavenger hunt questions.

     There are those who stop in for a quick tour of the Heritage Center, and regulars who stop in once a week.

     “We just want to keep things here new and interesting,” said Hendricks.

     He said it’s always fun to see people come through and randomly find a family connection to something/someone in Monticello.

     “This is a place for people to come and find out local information,” added Hendricks. There are not only historical displays, but also volumes of historical reference books.

     “We want this place to be something everyone can connect to,” concluded Hendricks.

     The Heritage Center is open to the public on Tuesdays from 6 to 8 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. They are also on Facebook, and regularly post updates on new displays and items.

     If you have an idea for a temporary display, contact the Heritage Center/Hendricks at 319-480-6816 or send them a private Facebook message. Hendricks encourages those interested in contributing to their displays to visit the museum during open hours to get an idea of what the board is trying to achieve.

     The center is located at 211 N. Sycamore St. in Monticello.



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