The Prairie Museum of Art and History in Colby

(Deb) Not really. [Laughs] (Frank) Straighten up, we’re back. Hello again. We were talking about acting and getting involved. We were away doing that story and I don’t know. There’s a commercial for some sort of hard cider or something with Captain Picard, and he says, “I’m not acting” and then, “Will somebody give me a line”. The thing is, I’ve never quite understood that commercial but that’s just me. (Deb) I think acting up would be what my mom would have told me. Yes, there’s acting, and then there’s acting up, and I think acting up is what Frank and I do here. (Frank) Yes, okay. We’re going to go way out to western Kansas next and we’re going to go Colby. Have you ever been to Colby? It’s really out there, it’s upon the High Plains but it’s not too far off the interstate. Anyway, there’s a museum there that you really have to go see. (Deb) You do and Colby is right there on I-70 and it’s one of the last stops before you get to Colorado, and of course, everybody stops there at the Oasis and goes to the Starbucks. And if you do that, you can go over to the Prairie Museum. I can’t say enough about this museum, you will be blown away. And I know I say that a lot but your jaw will drop when you go in and see the Kuska collection in this museum, and that’s just one piece of what’s there. (Frank) Well, and if you’re saying, “To see one museum, you’ve seen them all”. (Deb) No. (Frank) No, because this place, there’s a lot of acreage there, and there’s a sod house. I mean it’s really a cool place to stop and really have a serious look around. And the collections in there, you’re not going to believe. (Deb) And they have a little exhibit to Sam Ramey who is a native of Colby, and it was one of the nominees for the Kansas Music Hall of Fame this year. So another little plug there. Again, just when you think you have western Kansas pegged or maybe more rural Kansas, you’ve got this world-class opera singer from Little Bitty Colby out there on the High Plains. (Frank) Well now, because up in South Dakota, everybody says, “Well, you got to go to Wall Drug and Wall Drug is right out in the middle of nowhere”. (Deb) Okay, that really is nowhere, yes. (Frank) Now, the thing is no, this museum is not out in the middle of nowhere. It’s right there and it deserves a stop. (Deb) It does. You will thank us. You will write us letters and thank us when you go in this museum and see how great it was. I promise. (Frank) So I’m going to tell you the story. Experience early prairie life in a sod house, a one-room school, a country church and a 1930s farmstead as you discover 24-acres of outdoor exhibits of the Prairie Museum of Art and History. Among those is the Cooper Barn, the largest in Kansas and one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Architecture. All of which would be enough reason to stop and explore, but the main building holds some surprising treasures! With more than 21,000 square feet, it was designed by architect George Kuska to house his parents’ extensive collection. George’s Dad came to Colby in 1913 as an agronomist for the Colby Branch Experiment Station, what is now Kansas State. In 1917, he married Nellie McVey, a Colby schoolteacher originally from Hill City. She spent her entire life collecting and was even given the opportunity to talk about her acquisitions and hobby on her own radio program. Her lifelong passion for collecting began at the age of seven when she received an antique bisque doll dated from 1887. It was a reward for learning her multiplication tables. The couple continued to add to her collections and in 1957; Joe and Nellie moved to California and opened the Kuska Museum. They operated the museum until Nellie’s death in 1973. The entire collection was later donated to the people of Thomas County, Kansas, by the Kuska Foundation. It took more than three of the largest moving vans to transport seventeen tons of artifacts from California to Colby. The Smithsonian and other experts appraised the collection at a value of more than one million dollars in 1975. The museum is located on Interstate-70 in between exits 53 and 54, and hosts annual programs and activities designed for both children and adults in addition to its regular exhibits.

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