HASTINGS, Iowa — Summertime is usually prime time for the Indian Creek Museum, but until recently, the doors have been closed to visitors.
“We were closed for a while, and we had our last Sunday morning breakfast in March,” says Bill McGrew, who farms near here and is president of the Indian Creek Historical Society. “While we are open now, we do ask people to call ahead of time to make sure. And we are also open by appointment.”
Like other ag museums, the Southwest Iowa facility has had to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent restrictions. But despite the pandemic, the museum is forging ahead.
Over the summer, the group has worked with local blacksmith Matt Perkins to develop a blacksmithing exhibit in one of the newer buildings at the Mills County museum complex.
“We are pretty excited about this, and Matt is already doing some work in there,” McGrew says. “We are always looking for something new to offer.”
He says the museum originated in the early 1990s and was driven by local farmer Ben Wilson and his tractor collection.
“Ben had collected a lot of tractors, saving a lot of tractors that might have gone to the scrap dealer,” McGrew says. “He and his wife married later in life and didn’t have any children, so Ben started wondering about what would happen to his collection.
“He contacted bigger museums but they didn’t have the space for 40 to 50 tractors. So, several farmers around here got together and thought maybe it was something they could do.”
Wilson set up an endowment fund, and the museum came to life on the site of a former supper club. McGrew says Wilson lived long enough to watch his tractors move into the museum.
“We thought the one building would take care of it, but obviously it didn’t,” McGrew says.
The complex now includes three additional buildings, mostly filled with tractors and other machinery.
“That’s what people really like to see, the old machinery and things like that,” McGrew says.
But the complex, which encompasses several acres, offers more than machinery. The old Oaks School was relocated to the museum complex from several miles away, as was a restored barn. A pioneer log cabin is also located on the site.
“People really seem to enjoy being in the old buildings,” McGrew says.
Part of the original museum is also available for rental, he says. Events such as graduation and wedding receptions occur several times a year, and McGrew says a local church conducts services occasionally in the old barn.
The traditional Sunday breakfast, served on the last Sunday of the month, is the museum’s primary fundraiser. McGrew says many people have made cash donations during the pandemic, and mention how much they miss the breakfasts.
“I think the food is pretty good, but people seem to really miss getting together like they used to be able to do,” he says.
The museum also hosted the Iowa Hand Cornhusking Contest last year, and has plans to host it again Sept. 19.
“There are several states to do this, but as of today (Aug. 5), just Iowa and Nebraska are still going on as scheduled,” McGrew says. “It was a great event last year, and we hope we get to do it again this year.”
He says it’s good to be getting back to some semblance of normal, admitting it may take a while for the museum to be operating similarly to pre-pandemic levels.
“We’re just glad to be able to open it up again,” McGrew says. “If you want to make an appointment, just give us a call and we’ll be glad to help you out.”
More information may be found online at http://indiancreekmuseum.org/.