Second in a Series – By Mike Whittlesey

Last Week: As the La Porte City FFA Historical and Ag Museum transitions from one season to the next, the museum’s design team uses artifacts from a variety of sources to tell an exhibit’s story. When a display is disassembled, great care must be taken to properly pack artifacts for storage or shipment back to their rightful owners.

When the La Porte City FFA Historical and Ag Museum ushers in a new season for the twelfth time at 408 Main Street, visitors will discover a number of interesting stories awaiting them. The museum’s new season officially opens on May 1, and the facility will be open 10 AM – 4 PM. In honor of May Day, the admission price is just one dollar.

Like any good book or riveting movie plot, the displays museum patrons will enjoy in 2015 are all about the storytelling. Museum Director Jan Erdahl noted the staff and volunteers have been hard at work in preparation for opening day.

“We’re going to have so much fun telling the stories of this exhibit. It really is very interesting,” she stated.

At the heart of the 2015 theme, “Picking the Good Life,” are displays featuring artifacts on loan from the personal collections of Junior and Peggy McBride. Longtime La Porte City residents, the McBrides have graciously shared a number of artifacts from a unique variety of collectibles they have accumulated over the years. A visit to the museum this year will offer a peek at several rarely seen collections. While the individual items certainly are unique, it’s the stories behind them that make for excellent exhibits, Erdahl explained

“How can we put together a tour that’s going to be interesting that will talk about clocks, pocket watches and school bells? What’s the story behind it and who is our audience?” When developing displays true to the museum’s theme, these are the questions the museum’s design team seeks to answer.

In addition to timekeeping and bells, museum patrons will also enjoy viewing a collection of wedding dresses that illustrate fashion trends ranging from the late 1890s to the 1960s. Perhaps most surprising about this collection is the depth of colors they represent. A brown wedding dress is not something typically seen at weddings today.

Other items of note include Junior McBride’s collection of cigar box openers. Back in the day when cigar boxes were nailed shut, a special tool was used to crack them open. In 2015, cigar boxes are a somewhat rare commodity; dedicated openers for them even more so.

Another collection of interest is Peggy McBride’s sewing machines, including one that sews sideways. Complementing them are a series of ornate Avery brass needle cases, rare finds indeed, in today’s collectibles market.

On the museum’s lower level, patrons will find an area devoted primarily to agriculture. It is also a space that illustrates the important relationship the museum enjoys with the students that make up the local La Porte-Dysart FFA Chapter. Each year, using museum displays as inspiration, local FFA students work together to create an informative presentation for museum patrons to enjoy. In 2015, separate displays featuring corn and chicken have been enhanced by the work of students. Stories related to these projects include the answers to the questions “How can you tell what color of egg a chicken will lay?” and “How do hogs oil themselves to help keep bugs away?” In addition to these projects, FFA students are also actively involved with horticulture and landscaping projects on the museum’s grounds.

A trip to the museum’s lower level will also have patrons marveling at Junior McBride’s collection of unusual hammers, from the petite and almost fragile set of jewelry hammers to a distinctive one adorned with the head of a goat.

As the 2015 season kicks off, the museum’s calendar is rapidly filling up with special events and programs. Groups interetsed in scheduling a tour or special program are encouraged to call 342-3619. Those interested in learning more about the museum and how they can lend their time and talents as a volunteer can logon to the museum’s website at

The La Porte City FFA Historical and Ag Museum is open Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10 AM – 4 PM and Saturdays 10 AM – 2 PM from May 1 – December 5.