Tractor museum updates exhibits, opens art galleryApr 24th, 2014 | By tfedderson2 | Category: 2014, April 24, Arts & Entertainment
UNL’s Lester F. Larsen Tractor Test and Power Museum is getting a new look and a refocused mission.
Since becoming the manager of exhibits in 2012, Lance Todd has organized an update of the East Campus museum. The new direction — which includes a mission to showcase tractors that were innovative and/or actually tested at the UNL facility — has allowed Todd to open up the museum’s limited space and advance an industrialized design theme.
The ongoing project includes the creation of an art exhibition space. Still to come are a new welcome space and gift shop, a conference room and an update of the museum’s library/archives.
“In my first year here, my goal was to figure out what we have in the museum’s collection that is important and better define the mission of the museum,” Todd said. “Now, we are working to feature the important stories this museum should tell, showcasing things you will not see at other ag-related museums.”
The updated mission is on display in a new exhibit that showcases an SC-Case tractor tested at UNL and an Oliver 60 with a unique decorative design. The exhibit shows both tractors as if they were stored for many years in a grassy area behind a barn — a realistic setting that breaks from the museum’s traditional display of tractors parked inside the historic Nebraska Tractor Test building.
“The Oliver from the 1940s is one of the earliest models that features a stylish, modern design. It really wasn’t until the late 1970s that other tractor designs became similar,” Todd said. “The Case tractor was one that was officially tested and stayed at UNL. It became a utility tractor that was used for many, many campus projects.”
The exhibit, which Todd developed with help from Chelsea Hullerman, a junior actuarial science and agribusiness major, was featured in an April 12 open house.
Also now open at the museum is the Bill Splinter Memorial Gallery. The space, which once showcased various farming tools, has been updated for art exhibitions. The renovation was funded through donations made in memoriam to William “Bill” Eldon Splinter, founding director of the Larsen museum.
The inaugural exhibit showcases tractor and farm-related drawings by Craig Cassell, a 1994 UNL graduate and quadriplegic who drew by holding a pencil in his mouth. Cassell died in 2011.
“We plan to have the first exhibit up through the summer months,” Todd said. “We would like to rotate displays through on a regular basis. We’ve already started to collaborate with other museums to create future exhibits.”
Postcards of Cassell’s drawings will be sold at the museum. Proceeds will benefit a scholarship fund at Fairbury High School, from which Cassell graduated.
Other completed projects that have helped reshape the museum include: creating a new museum logo; loaning tractors to other museums to free up space inside the museum; adding new photo hangers, cedar planks and corrugated metal to walls to give a modern look and increase the industrial feel of the space; improved lighting by refurbishing existing fixtures; and creating a new exhibition area that looks like the inside of a barn (located opposite the SC-Case/Oliver 60 exhibit).
While the historic building — constructed in 1920 and the original home to the Nebraska Tractor Test facility — offers ongoing challenges in terms of display space and maintenance needs, Todd said it remains the ideal place for the Larsen Tractor Test and Power Museum.
“The biggest asset this museum has is this historic building,” Todd said. “ This is the space we need to be in to tell the history of the Nebraska Tractor Test facility. And the location, right next to the current tractor test facility, is perfect for showcasing ongoing and future research.”
For more information, go to http://tractormuseum.unl.edu.