The Ben Ferrel Platte County Museum has opened a new exhibit that is inspired by the PBS television series “Downton Abbey.”
Lisa Wittmeyer, curator, said the museum is located in a mini-mansion built in Platte City, Missouri, in 1882. Frederic Krause, the builder, found inspiration for the building after visiting the Governor’s mansion in Jefferson City in 1873.
Ben Ferrel bequeathed the money that allowed the county historical society to purchase the building in 1977. The museum is now funded and operated by the Platte County Historical Society.
She said there is also a historical library in the basement that includes a genealogical and research area.
“Everything in the museum collection has been donated by a family or individual that has a Platte County connection,” Wittmeyer said. “It represents the regional history really well. We have a nice display of artifacts ranging from furniture to clothing to everyday items that were used. It’s truly like stepping back in time.”
The new exhibit called “Downton! Platte County Style” will present a display of local fashion and artifacts from the 1910s and 1920s that includes the Titanic era and Jazz Age.
Wittmeyer said she hopes fans of “Downton Abbey” will enjoy how some of the show’s themes find expression through local history.
“We took what was represented in the series in England and highlighted what was similar to what happened here in Platte County,” Wittmeyer said. “The time frame includes World War I and the changing role of women who were able to vote in 1920.”
She said the exhibit also includes information on local traditions in Northwest Missouri such as foxhunting and the raising of purebred horses.
“Many of those with British Isle ancestry brought with them knowledge of how to raise purebred horses in the United States that was learned in the eastern part of the country. That tradition of raising horses for competition sport was very popular at the Platte County Fair in the 1920s. We had one of the fastest horses in the world living in the county in the late 1800s.”
She said the Missouri State Fair referred to the sport of foxhunting as fox chasing in 1916.
“It was more of a fun outing and a fox was rarely caught,” Wittmeyer said. “In Platte County, foxhunting was often done with no horses. A family would go out in search of a fox den with the family dog and it was just fun.”
The exhibit will include items such as china place settings from Carol Lintner in Atchison, Kansas, and an early 1900s wedding dress from Anne Simpson Jones in Weatherby Lake, Missouri. There will be 1920s googly eye dolls and a Titanic-era one-room doll house from Joyce Taylor in Platte City.
In addition, there will be a WWI roll of honor roster and an illustrated poster from Camp Funston where many local soldiers trained during the war. There will be objects from the museum’s permanent collection that helps showcase this era including several quilts auctioned off as Red Cross fundraisers during World War I by local communities.
The Downton Abbey exhibit will be on display from now until September 30 during select dates. The museum is also offering a “British Isle” themed driving tour to other locations in the area that is being sponsored in conjunction with the exhibit. The museum is offering driving tour brochures.
On August 24, the museum will host a Mocktail Mixer from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. with free tastings of nonalcoholic cocktails based on popular flavors from the 1910s and 1920s. On September 14, retired Army Lt. Col. Robert Kornacki will speak at 7 p.m. on foxhunting at the First Christian Church of Platte City.
A museum admission season pass is $5 for adults and is free for children 12 and under. Active military personnel are free as part of the historical society’s Blue Star Museum participation. Group tours are available by appointment.
The museum is located at 220 Ferrel Street in Platte City. For more information on upcoming events related to the exhibit and museum hours, visit www.facebook.com/BenFerrelPlatteCountyMuseumMiniMansion or www.pchs1882.org. The museum can be contacted by phone at 816-431-5121.