Relations thawing between Fremont County Pioneer Museum and the Pioneer Association in Lander

Fremont County Museum Board Chairman Tom Duncan, standing, discussed the board’s proposed budget with their County Commissioner liaison, Stephanie Kessler, during the board’s May meeting. Looking on is Museum Administrative Assistant Sheila Lopez, left, and board treasurer Butch Tonkin, right. (Ernie Over photo) 

(Lander, Wyo.) – The relationship between the Fremont County Pioneer Museum and the Fremont County Pioneer Association is thawing. At the May meeting of the Fremont County Museum Board, two representatives from the Association were in attendance and presented a report on activities at their Pioneer Village, which sits adjacent to the county museum at the Museum of the American West (MAW) .

The frosty relationship between the two entities dates back to the tenure of former Pioneer Museum Director Carol Thiesse, who was released from her job last August. Thiesse and Pioneer Association members had been trading charges and counter charges against each other for several years. For that reason, the Pioneer Association had not indicated any interest in supporting the county museum.

The county museum in Lander had been closed since 1998 and its collection placed into storage after the old museum facility was condemned. The original museum dated to 1915 and was Wyoming’s first dedicated museum facility. It wasn’t until 2009 that the museum reopened in its current spacious new 14,000 square foot facility on land deeded to the county by the MAW. The original log cabin that housed the first Pioneer Museum is now located in MAW’s Pioneer Village. Shortly after the new museum opened, and Thiesse was named director, some Pioneer Association members complained that the museum’s collection was not being handled property.

Fremont County Museum Board Chairman Tom Duncan reported during the meeting that the Pioneer Association had recently expressed interest in becoming a “designated support group” for the county’s Pioneer Museum. Duncan said the group indicated they would have to change their by-laws to accommodate that, and the association only meets once a year where that can be done. Similar support groups exist for the Dubois and Riverton museums. The willingness of the Pioneer Association to establish a formal relationship with the county museum represents a thaw in the relations between the two entities.

Students in the Pioneer Summer School learn 1880 era lessons from teacher Mary McAleenan. (C10 file photo by Victoria Fregoso)

Students in the Pioneer Summer School learn 1880 era lessons from teacher Mary McAleenan in 2012’s session.  (C10 file photo by Victoria Fregoso)

MAW’s Bonnie Wilhelm reported that the Pioneer Summer School in which students dress in period clothing and attend classes in the Borner’s Garden Schoolhouse, is already full for this summer. This summer school is for children who have just completed the 2nd through 6th grades. Students practice penmanship with quill pens, read from McGuffey readers, and learn about the important events of the time. Crafts, games, and music are also a part of the children’s day. The summer school is held during the month of June in the historic school house, which originally was located near the mouth of Sinks Canyon and was built around 1881. Students attend classes on a Monday through Friday schedule from 9 a.m. to noon.

Wilhelm reported that a new storage shed in the Pioneer Village has been completed, and the museum’s annual yard sale is coming  up on June 1st. She said three concert events are planned this summer, including the popular Wyoming artist Jalon Crossland on July 25th. She said the MAW’s website has been updated and the summer calendar is located there. (click here).