To Clean or Not to Clean: Nebraska City Museum of Firefighting

From the title of this column, people who know me will think that I am referring to my house; the answer is no on both accounts. What I am referring to is the mentality of some volunteers about how objects should look like when displayed in a museum. Often times objects coming in will have some dust on them and cleaning off the dust to further the life of the artifact is fine. However, some think that anything on display should be a show piece and restored to look brand new. That is fine for an antique furniture store but not for a museum. The dings, scrapes and even hand-writing on an object show how it was used; it bears its own history.

One great example of this is an artifact collected from the Benefiel Fire this past January. The propane tank from a fork lift, the tank’s safety features failed when exposed to the extreme heat and it exploded. Does it belong in a museum? After all, it isn’t old. Torn completely open, it provides a great example of the dangers of modern firefighting. Covered with suit and charred, some of the museum’s volunteers thought that it should be scrubbed down to be more presentable. However, doing so would erase the visible affect of the explosion and damper the tank’s significance both historically and in telling the story of the risks that firefighters take when entering a burning building. Currently, the volunteers are working to create an exhibit talking about the modern dangers of firefighting. With luck it will be completed by AppleJack weekend.

A great time to see the display and support the Nebraska City Museum of Firefighting is by attending the Fire House Grill. An annual fund-raiser, the Grill is held from 11:00 – 2:00 on the Saturday of the AppleJack Festival, September 16. Held at the Nebraska City Volunteer Fire Department Fire Station, all proceeds from the lunch assists the museum with its operating expenses and creating new displays.

Nebraska City Museum of Firefighting
1320 Central Avenue
Nebraska City, NE 68410
Hours; Wednesday- Saturday 11am-5pm, Sunday 12pm-4pm
Arbor Day Weekend thru October
Admission; Adults $3.00, Children (4-12) $1.00
Nebraska City residents receive free admission with proof of residency.

Dean ShisslerComment