Dubois Museum Day

Shawn O’Brate

DUBOIS – This past Saturday the annual “Dubois Museum Day” occurred at the famous Dubois Museum where people could learn about how past Wyomingites survived back in the day, what they used to make money, and more. 

In the museum the raffles and silent auction powered through alongside some of the Dubois Museum’s famous displays and educational shows, but in the back was an entirely different feel. 

In the back one could see Steve Banks, a lecturer and Dubois native, who has helped teach people the history of Dubois and how beaver trapping became so large.

“I like to share the history of this area,” Banks said, “this is where this type of stuff took place, this is the beaver trappers trapping beaver skins to satisfy the needs for beaver hats in Europe and America…this area was one of the key areas for that business and I like to just show how people survived out here, because survival was the number one thing.”

There was also local artists and knifesmiths selling their artwork and products. Locals like Tom Lucas who was making arrowheads while Jan Marrou’s music echoed throughout the museum’s backyard.

“I’ve been coming here every year, so far back I can’t count that far back,” Lucas said about Museum Days, “I think it’s slowly picking up after COVID but it’s kind of a slow process, but it’s getting better.”

There was also local work made by people like Jake Isaly, who sold knives, pizza cutters, tools and silverware with handles made of antlers, sheep horns and more.

“People have gotten so involved with the phone, they miss out on things like this,” Isaly said about his work and the Museum Days as a whole, “people play with their computers and their phones and there’s a lot more to life than that.”

Another fun part of Museum Days was watching local engineer Dale Corkill start up some of the oldest living engines left in the country, including a 1923 Fairbanks Morse Z that never saw the inside of a vehicle but still works “like a charm”. Corkill also could be seen shucking corn through old fashioned styles while a 1941 John Deere E model engine sputtered next to him, begging for more oil. 

But, one of the coolest parts about Museum Days was the Draper Museum Raptor Experience that was performed in one of the large gathering rooms in the museum. It was there where Melissa Hill and her colleague held out Hayden, a Swainson’s Hawk with an injured tail that made it impossible for him to fly and mild lead poisoning that made him weak.

“Our main goal is to educate our guests about what we think are some of the coolest wild animals around,” Hill said after one of her shows, “we teach them about birds of prey, what their adaptations are, why they’re so important and we let folks get a good close up of them which they typically don’t get in the wild.”

Hill, who considers herself a history buff, says one of her favorite times of the year is when she’s able to come up to Dubois for Museum Days.

“This is our fourth year coming…I’ve been to all the ones we’ve come to and I love this,” Hill said, “the first year we came up I was amazed at how much cool stuff they have in this museum and everybody is so friendly and they truly like teaching folks about the history of this area, it’s a gem.”

But Hill is also one of those people that truly enjoys educating people, especially when she can help negate some of the stereotypes about the animals she works so closely with.

“I think a lot of times, especially when you get to more rural areas, there are very old stereotypes and very old beliefs about a lot of predators whether that be about raptors or wolves,” Hill explained, “So my favorite part is not only sharing why they’re so good and why they’re important but, over the years, to see the change in perception of folks…I see so many ranchers that now appreciate raptors and the good that they do rather than 100 years ago when they thought these were bad animals and they wanted to kill them.”

The event was a huge success for the Dubois Museum, but what was an even bigger success was the introduction of a new food out back, free to everyone in attendance with donations being happily accepted.

“From the beginning of Museum Days they always served homestead stew with frybread and honey butter,” Johanna Thompson, site manager of Dubois Museum said, “people were like ‘why are you serving stew on the hottest day of the year?’ so last year one of the Friends Group members said we should turn the frybread into a taco.”

Thompson has been the site manager for the museum for a little over six years and, much like Lucas noticed out back, the drop in COVID restrictions has truly opened up the Museum Days to the status it had before the disease reared its ugly nose into society.

“In the past it was much more of that rendezvous style, we tried to cut it back to local stuff and make it more educational,” Thompson said, “We focus on the cultural and natural history of the area…a lot of school programs come and see us just for that reason. We have one of the first ranches here in Wyoming [and] a lot of natural history stuff like geology.”

After Museum Days was over Thompson’s day didn’t end. No, she now moves forward with the museum’s new kids’ programs that help educate the community like their treks and speaker programs that have grown massively in size.

“One of the biggest things that we’ve expanded on is we have the museum here, but, we’ve really expanded on the programs we’re doing,” Thompson said, “Kids programs have gone from literally like three kids to…close to 200 kids sign up, that has really taken off.”

If you’d like to see what the Dubois Museum is all about, and the exhibits they have on a daily basis, as well as the programs that are growing every day feel free to visit the museum or call them at (307) 455-2284 for more information.