What a gem! And, who would expect to find a first-class coal mining exhibit in a public library?
I recently had lunch with a friend in Waukee and her “drawing card” was to suggest that we visit this exhibit.
Of Italian descent, Hiram Ori grew up in the coal mining community in Waukee; his parents and other relatives worked in the Shuler Coal Mine. His estate included a bequest of approximately $700,000 for an addition to the library to feature a coal mining exhibit and a meeting room.
The exhibit includes many artifacts, photographs and other documents from the mining community. It also includes some oral histories with memories of mining, the homes, the company store, life in the camp, and Waukee history. All very interesting.
With the community’s Italian background, the interviewees also tell about the coming of “the grape train” which brought grapes from California to be made into wine. The story continues with pressing the grapes, preparing the barrels to make a good wine, and the three grades of wine; the best grade was never sold.
Another story includes the arrival of yams and telling of youth climbing to the top of the yam-filled rail car and tossing them down to the people standing on the ground.
The use of touch screen technology for sharing the oral histories is something I have not seen in a small museum and it certainly adds a new dimension to history. Seeing the people’s faces and hearing their voices as they tell the stories make the memories more personal and meaningful; so much better than reading the story on a piece of paper. I was impressed!
By the way, Waukee is probably the fastest growing town in the state of Iowa. There must be many reasons… foresight, education, and inspiration are probably in the list.
Waukee Public Library
950 Warrior Lane
Waukee, IA 50263