Oskaloosa.com

January 25, 2013

New curator begins at Nelson Farm

By ANDY GOODELL
The Oskaloosa Herald

OSKALOOSA — Living history is her forte.

Kelly Halbert started working as curator at the Nelson Pioneer Farm & Museum this week.

Halbert said before venturing into the world of the living history farm, she spent 20 years as a bookkeeper. After that, she went back to college for nursing, noting that she wasn’t interested in taking anymore accounting classes.

After determining that she didn’t want to pursue nursing anymore, Halbert visited with the dean of the University of Utah. After finding out that she would graduate sooner if she focused on consumer economics, Halbert aimed her studies to that end.

While studying consumer economics, Halbert found herself writing a paper about a living history site in Salt Lake City, called “This Is the Place Heritage Park.” At this point, Halbert “fell in love” with history and museum work, she said.

Four years later, Halbert had a second bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in history.

“So, my fast trip out turned out to be really slow,” said Halbert.

Halbert would go on to work for living history locations in the Chicago area including the Volkening Heritage Farm at Spring Valley in Schaumburg, Ill.

Eventually, Halbert was hired by the Des Moines County Historical Society who had just purchased a red sandstone library from the 1800s. She was in charge of renovating it into an exhibit museum, which she said was “really fun.”

“I thoroughly enjoyed that,” she said.

Halbert also worked at The Sawmill Museum in Clinton before coming to the Nelson Pioneer Farm.

When it comes to the Nelson Pioneer Farm and its annual events, Halbert said she loves the fact that events like the Fall Festival are held.

An avid quilter, lace-maker and weaver, Halbert said she’d like to highlight these things with an event, possibly this summer.

As a textile historian, Halbert said her favorite piece at the Nelson Pioneer Farm so far is the rug loom in the museum.

“If it’s got something to do with threads and textiles, I’ve probably done it,” explained Halbert.

Additional summer-time events are also possible, noted Halbert.

When it comes to having school groups come to the Nelson Pioneer Farm, Halbert is all for it. She said it’s important for young people to get hands-on learning experiences about history at the farm.

“I think it’s a very important component of learning because that’s how you put the text book learning into practice,” said Halbert.

Having met her husband, Michael, while they were doing a production of “The Sound of Music,” Halbert said she thinks it would be a good idea to possibly do a bit of museum theater at Nelson Pioneer Farm in the future. She said she’s also looking into how to display the farm’s collection, as well.

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Herald City Editor Andy Goodell can be reached at news2@oskyherald.com.