VS Museum gains new life through young volunteer

Jill Meier, Journal editor
Jill Meier/BV Journal 
Valley Springs resident Kayla Moss has a passion for her town’s history. the 22-year-old recently stepped up to catalog the town’s treasures and reopen the museum to the public.
Kayla Moss isn’t your typical 22-year-old.
The Valley Springs native is intrigued by everything old, especially her hometown’s history that runs deep into the Moss family bloodline.
She’s always loved museums, so much so, as a child, she begged her mom to take her to museums on her days off. Years later, Moss earned a degree in history and is currently pursuing a graduate degree from the University of Harvard extension school’s museum certificate program.
“None of the rest of my family is into this field at all,” said Moss, who’s ultimate goal is to work in children’s education in museums. She’d love nothing more than to one day focus on school tours and creating an environment where kids are able to learn but can also have fun in the process.
“When I was little, I always begged my mom to take me to museums on her days off – very weird child, I know – but I always begged her because I had such fun at museums. They were such a fun experience for me to have and I got to talk to people about this history and about these topics. So, I just want to create that environment in which a child can learn and grow about whatever the history may be of that particular museum and what they’re exhibiting, and just to see that little spark in their eyes – that ‘ah ha moment’ – is so magical,” she said.
In recent weeks, Moss began the tedious project of creating “ah ha moments” for visitors to the museum in her hometown, a quaint log cabin-style structure tucked behind City Hall. The museum first opened its doors to the public in 2006. Moss was just 8 years old at the time, and she vividly remembers the magic she found inside.
“To find a museum specifically about the town that I grew up in, I think was probably the coolest thing ever. Seeing pictures of all these cool old houses, I would point at one and go, ‘Oh, my gosh, I know where that house is.’ I drive by that house all of the time,’” she recalls.
It was about a month ago that Moss received the blessing from the Valley Springs Commission to organize and reopen the museum doors to the public.
“This museum hasn’t been open in quite a long while, not even open the past few years during Booster Days,” she said.
It was during a family gathering that her 8-yearold cousin, Luke Danielson, asked her if she’d ever been inside the museum. 
She told him “loads of times.”
His curiosity had him asking her for more details about the contents inside the four-walled, log cabin-like structure.
“I got to thinking about all these younger generations of Valley that have no clue what’s inside this museum, their own town’s history,” she said, which led to bringing the request to the commission.
Moss’ plans for the museum are big. She’s currently in the process of painting the exterior of the building and organizing the many treasures inside.
After waiting for months for an order of white gloves to arrive, Moss recently began scavenging through the pages of yellowed pages from newspapers from the 1800s that documented the town’s happenings.
“I finally got some white gloves that came in after waiting for so long, so now I can start to flip through these,” she said of the delicate papers tucked inside a drawer. Her plans for the papers are to preserve them by placing the pages in custom sleeves as well as digitizing them. She also plans to catalog each paper.
“It’s quite a bit of work, but if anybody wants to do research on anything they have, I will have it here ready to go,” she promises. “I’m just trying to make it accessible as possible, so even if you’re halfway across the country or maybe you’re in Europe and you want to explore Valley Springs’ history. Well, the Valley Springs  Museum will have a data base online.”
Limited space, Moss said, won’t allow for every trinket to be on display all of the time, but she does hope to change out exhibits.
“Right now, it’s more about preserving and trying to show what we can for history, and hopefully we’ll work up to getting enough donations to get a storage space to store some of these items or create a bigger building so we have a little more space to work with,” she said. “My hope is to get it to the point where this building could be a full rotating exhibit of the town’s history.”
The museum – and the bulk of its treasures – became a reality thanks to longtime businessman and resident, Larry Long. The cabin, tagged as “authentic” came from Yankton. Long first placed the cabin on his farm, but when he moved, he donated it to the city for the purpose of a museum.
Last month, Moss opened the museum to the public for a couple of hours, and again this past weekend.
“Everyone that has come in knows it’s a work in progress, and each time that they come back, there’s going to be something different about this place,” she said. “Right now, I’m just trying to get some of this collection out so people know what’s in here, and every time that I open a drawer, I find something new.”
As she sifts through the many trinkets from the past, she’s making a mental list of items she’d like to see shared with the museum.
“I’m hoping to see more older photographs,” she said. “And this old stove, I would gladly take some old silverware that is authentic to Valley Springs’ history.”
As she continues to survey the museum contents, she’ll learn what is needed to compliment future exhibits.
Moss plans to announce the museum’s hours on the town’s Facebook page. Last month, a dozen visitors spied the door was open and stopped by the museum.
“It’s more life than has been inside the museum in years,” Moss joked. “Most of them, if not all, stopped because they saw the door open.”
She’s planning to have the museum open the first Sunday of every month for two hours in the afternoon.
The young history buff said the town’s history documented in the museum dates back to as far as the War of 1812. A sword on display was used by one of the town’s residents in the War of 1812. It sits alongside a percussion rifle that was used in the Civil War by another resident. 
Moss is also intrigued by books written by the town’s famed poet, Adeline Jenney.
“We have quite a bit of her stuff in here as well,” Moss said. 
Things like her baby picture or another photo Jenney “when she did not want her picture taken but her mother insisted.” The museum is also privy to a couple of copies of her original books and letters she wrote to family and friends.
Another or the town’s claim to fame is the James Brothers and a handful of well-known companies, such as Golden Flour company, that once did business in Valley Springs, and the Jim Savage Memorial Studio.
“He actually had his western art and gift gallery and historical center here. I don’t know if he was as famous as Jesse James, per se, but he was well known in this area,” Moss said.
“Valley Springs was a thriving community at one time,” Moss said, boasting the town had four different hotels at one time.
“If it wasn’t for that darn interstate, we could’ve continued to thrive, but like all small towns, once the interstate came, there wasn’t as big of a need for the railroad anymore,” she said.


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