Eye on KELOLAND: A home for history

Eye on KELOLAND

CARTHAGE, S.D. (KELO) — History lives at the Campbell Straw Bale Built Museum in Carthage.

“We wanted to preserve what we have. We wanted a place for people to bring their things so they would be preserved for the future,” Museum co-founder Barbara Moldan said.

Barbara Moldan is one of the founders who helped launch the project more than two decades ago.

It was built entirely by volunteers.

Pete Miller, a founder and a past president of the museum, says it opened in 2004.

“I always said this is the building that shouldn’t have been because it was built by people that have no building experience. We had no money. We had $200 in the bank when we started. Things just came our way for some unknown reason. We had grants we tried for and donations and memorials. It just seemed that everything fell into place when we needed it most,” Museum co-founder and treasurer Sally Madison said.

From school memorabilia, to military uniforms, to a movie script, the museum showcases local, state, and even some national history.

“We have newspapers of President Lincoln being killed. We have all the newspapers in Carthage. We preserve people’s birthdays, their life, death, the happenings going on, the fires that happened in town, just to know how hard it is to survive so people can learn that things aren’t always easy and if they’re easy they’re not worth having,” Barbara Moldan said.

The museum also highlights agriculture.

“There’s people who come here who have no idea what the farmers raise or how it affects their lives, and that has a lot to do with what we save here,” Barbara Moldan said.

Local business owner Melanie Hamilton’s late mother Henri Tru is remembered through a display at the museum.

“She was known as the pickle lady in town. I think at 83 she built her commercial kitchen onto her house,” Melanie Hamilton of Carthage said.

But people don’t just come to the museum for the history. The building itself is a draw.

“When people think straw bale built museum, ‘Where’s the straw bales?’ They come outside, walk around, they see the stucco,” Museum president Norbert Moldan said.

But truth windows located throughout the museum offer partial views of the 1,300 straw bales in the building.

“The walls are solid straw bales. They are the insulation; they are the walls. The timbers are only the framework to hold the straw bales in place,” Barbara Moldan said.

Local farmers provided the straw. Wood used for the museum comes from other buildings, including a dairy barn from the early 1900s.

Moldan hopes this museum, highlighting the past, helps guide future generations.

“I’ve always loved history. And if we lose our history, how are our young people going to know how to take care of things in the future? They need to know where they come from and how they got here,” Barbara Moldan said.

Some of those of those answers are inside this home for history.

The museum has struggled because of the pandemic.

The museum will be open on the weekends from Memorial Day through Labor Day, but you can visit the museum year-round if you call ahead.

The museum’s phone number is 605-772-4716.

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