Last week it was Nicodemus; this week it’s Colby, Kansas, right where Highway 24 runs into I-70. I went there for one reason: The Prairie Museum of Art and History, which I’d last visited in the spring 2007. It hadn’t changed much. The museum building, seen here from the back, is a dugout,
but many exhibits await outside, including a few live ones.Buildings from western Kansas dot the site. Volunteers built this sod house in 1984, but it contains furnishings from the late nineteenth century. On my 2007 trip through Kansas down to the Gulf Coast of Texas, I photographed the interior of the schoolroom. I think I may have sat at a desk like that in grade school. My main destination was the Cooper Barn, the largest barn in Kansas and one of the Eight Wonders of Kansas Architecture.
Inside it exhibits old cars, farm equipment, and lots and lots of cobwebs and dust. Upstairs is a room large enough to use for dances. I really enjoy wandering around historical museums like this one. I wish I’d arrived earlier in the day, but I wouldn’t have missed Nicodemus for the world. When I walked back into the museum, they had turned off the lights. I begged the staff to turn them back on so I could photograph Nellie Kuska’s collection of Barbies of color. Not the first thing you’d expect to see in Kansas, is it? And it’s only a small part of her doll collection, which is only a small part of her entire collection. That’s why tiny museums are worth a look—you’ll always find some odd detail that changes your view of the place.