Freeborn County Historical Museum comes to life in new event

Published 9:56 am Saturday, April 1, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

The Freeborn County Historical Museum, Library and Village was busy Friday night during its first ever Night at the Museum event. The goal: Bring the museum to life.

“We have a number of historic figures that are being brought to life throughout the museum,” said Stephanie Kibler, executive director of the museum. 

One of the museum’s goals was being creative with how history was presented, so she thought having visitors interact with characters from the past helped build a sense of community. And she thought doing this would be a fun way to do so while encouraging young people to visit.

Email newsletter signup

“Who doesn’t love the movie, ‘Night at the Museum?’” she said, referring to the 2006 movie starring Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Rami Malek and the late Robin Williams as Teddy Roosevelt.

It’s also a popular children’s movie, so Kibler and her staff thought there were enough interesting characters within Freeborn County to pull it off. Planning for the event started almost a year ago after staff talked about ways to bring their exhibits to life and get visitors interacting with new materials.

“As we talked about that we talked about the different characters,” she said. “Helmer Myre, for instance, is an incredible, interesting man, professional wrestler,” she said, referring to the man who became a sheriff in Freeborn County before becoming a state senator.

The best way to garner that interest, they decided, was having people meet him.

Special guests at the event included (but weren’t limited to) Dr. Elizabeth Stacy, the first female doctor in the state and only Freeborn County doctor during the Civil War, Helmer Myre and Elizabeth Taylor, who spent her honeymoon in Albert Lea.

Besides historic characters, others such as SpongeBob (whose grandmother was voiced by Marion Ross), a pelican (representing the Pelican Breeze) and Wilma the Wooly Mammoth (the museum’s mascot) were on hand.

Sophia Hareid, a student representative for the board of directors at the museum who also works there during the summers, played Stacy.

“I’ve never really acted before, so I’m super excited and really excited to see all the characters come to life,” she said.

Rachel Cole portrayed Taylor after she was asked to by Holly Babcock, executive director of the Albert Lea Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“I was honored,” she said. “I thought it sounded like a lot of fun. I do a lot of theater in town and in Austin.”

The movie “Night at the Museum” was also shown.

“It’s fun,” Kibler said. “It’s a creative, innovative new idea that we have not done before here in Freeborn County.”

Nora Smith decided to attend after getting a text from a friend asking if she’d be interested in going.

And because she knew people who planned to visit, she decided to go.

“I thought it was pretty good,” she said. “I thought the actors were good at bringing the characters to life and overall it was just fun.”

Elizabeth Reule was with Smith after hearing about it from her history teacher.

“I think it was good,” she said. “Everybody is amazing actors, and they did a really good job.”

She was also happy to see Wilma and SpongeBob. 

Besides high school performers, members of Albert Lea Community Theatre as well as volunteers participated.