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Inspiration Explorer - Pioneer Village, Nebraska

Research and inspiration are the bread and butter of good production design, and I would guess that most of us love finding new sources for information and ideas. With that in mind, welcome to the inaugural article of R&D Explorer, a posting that features interesting, new or unique sources for research and design.

Pioneer Village - Minden, Nebraska

Historical Artifacts and Architecture

Level of Detail: Individual items include little to no printed information

Digital Research Options: None

I spent the summer of 2013 designing a film in rural Nebraska and spent each weekend trying to find interesting things to do in the surrounding area. I toured an old chalk mine, walked part of the original Oregon trail and then I found Pioneer Village. I had asked one of the local hosts if there was something I HAD to see before leaving Nebraska - Pioneer Village was her top choice.

What’s the elevator pitch for Pioneer Village?

Imagine a 1960’s exhibit that explains AMERICA, yes, in caps. Pioneer Village totes itself as “the largest private collection of Americana anywhere” You can touch almost everything, climb in the good stuff, and it even has decor organized by decade. Want to know what kind of broom would have been used in rural America in 1890 - got it. How about every bullet available in the American West? Check.

The complex includes 26 buildings that house over 50,000 original items of historical value. They have a transplanted original pony express stop, a merry-go-round, trains, several homes, farm buildings and machinery, and even a sometimes operational vintage snack bar. There are 2 hangers of vintage motor vehicles, including a range of cars, motorcycles, vintage snowmobiles and tractors. They sell 2-day ticket packages with a hotel stay and carousel ride, it is that big.

The Best Things

I spent the first hour of my visit in just the main building, which houses dozens of original wagons, many of which are dressed with artifacts, and in pristine condition. I have been obsessed with the Oregon Trail since I played the game as a kid, so I loved poking around the different types of wagons. I feel like in most film and tv, you only see the classic covered wagon, it was great to learn about the other types of wagons that would have been used as well - milk and food delivery, military and even the variations by ethnic group.

The Home and Shops Building was by far my favorite, featuring twenty “rooms of the past” by decade. In large aisles with plexi barriers, rows of American rooms are organized by decade, so you can walk down the row and see the full evolution of the American home. The building also features common shops such as a doctors office, print shop, barbershop and many more. Every picture I tried to take in this building is overwhelming to look at now, so much detail is crammed into every corner of the building.

In Conclusion

Getting to central Nebraska is not on everyone’s list of road trips, but if you are heading cross country, it is 100% worth a stop. In the more likely case that you are not heading to Nebraska, think of this as a call to get out there and rediscover the amazing kitsch on offer around us, all the time, no matter where we are.

I decided to include Pioneer Village as my first entry in this blog because above all, it made me excited about design and research. I ran through the buildings and grounds like a kid in a candy shop, and left with a second wind to complete my feature.

Want to learn more? Visit them online, Pioneer Viallage.

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