My friend whispered to me across the way, “Mel! Mel! Come and take a look at this!” I skipped over (yes, skipped as it was the first time in many moons that I literally felt like skipping with glee and excitement and I wasn’t about to waste that moment) to where he was standing.
- A series of posters “Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Journey of a Pioneer Family” with a general explanation of the Ingalls’ family west within the context of the American western expansion.
- Each poster has a piece of American art depicting the period, a photocopy of a Wilder artifact (such as her teaching certificate) and a quote from Wilder or a photo.
Right Hand Aisle: Left Hand Side: Double Glass Case: Lower Half
- A tribute to the Little House on the Prairie TV show.
- Featuring: Clothing, dolls, photos of the cast, a board game, a signed script by Michael Landon, and two autobiographies by Melissa Gilbert and Melissa Sue Anderson.
- General artifacts referencing the Little House on the Prairie book.
- German translation of The First Four Years called, Almanzo and Laura from 1972
- Library binding first edition of Little House on the Prairie used by a one-room schoolhouse near Flint, Michigan (circa 1935.)
- Little House on the Prairie manuscript notes.
Right Hand Aisle: Back Wall
- Double case of items referencing things that occurred during Wilder’s lifetime.
- JIF peanut butter and SPAM was on display.
(Turning left, my right.)
Second Aisle: Back Wall : Upper Corner
- Almanzo Wilder’s boyhood corner featuring tools that were used on the farm in Malone, New York.
- A quilt made by a classroom in 1996 is the focal point.
- Two small podium glass cases. One on the right: spinning wool, tool used to spin wool. One on the left: fabric made from spinning.
Second Aisle: Back Wall
- General artifacts of items that people would have used during Almanzo’s childhood.
- Books, boots, health books, snow shoes, daily appliances such as an iron.
(Turning forward, facing towards the front)
Second Aisle: Left Hand Side
- A corner with two quilts and a spinning wheel
Second Aisle: Right Hand Side
- A podium with a blue binder containing correspondence between LIW and RWL.
- Wilder’s edits from The Long Winter and These Happy Golden Years.
- Wall adjacent, the curator recreated the editorial relationship between these two women by providing excerpts from the letters showing “differences of opinion.”
Second Aisle: Left Hand Side
- Corner featured William Anderson’s books about Wilder.
- Art of Dan Andreasen who has illustrated the “Little House Years” series among other adaptations.
- Two foreign editions.
(Adjacent to the the corner on the left facing the long table.)
Second Aisle: Left Hand Side – small cased podium.
May 1949, the Detroit Public Library dedicated a branch to Wilder. She was unable to attend because Manly was quite ill. In 1967, a new building was erected dedicating the library in her name.
- Programs from each dedication
- A letter from Wilder thanking them for the dedication
- A telegram from RWL in 1967 telling officials how much the library meant to her mother.
(On the far right wall there is a glass case with three sections. Memory plays tricks on me with this one, as I keep forgetting the order of each case. I hope that I get this right!)
Second Aisle: Right Hand Side: Section One
- Novels popular during this period and books discussing fashion of the period.
- Charles Ingalls’s signed copy of Norwood.
Second Aisle: Right Hand Side: Section Two
- Contemporary children’s books and those featured in the novel.
- Older editions of Black Beauty and Little Women.
Second Aisle: Right Hand Side: Section Three
- Compares Helen Sewell and Mildred Boyle’s illustrations to Garth Williams’s and asks us “Which one do you prefer?”
- Original sketches by Williams for The First Four Years.
- Signed illustration of Little House in the Big Woods.
- Original artwork by Helen Sewell and Mildred Boyle.
- Foreign editions of Little House on the Prairie, Little Town on the Prairie, The Long Winter and others.
- Children’s magazines featuring Wilder’s writings.
Second Aisle: Right Hand Side: Section Four
- Possibly first edition of Farmer Boy with Helen Sewell and Mildred Boyle illustrations.
- Letter from Wilder to a fan with a map of DeSmet on the back.
- Original handwritten and typed manuscripts of The Long Winter and These Happy Golden Years.
(Turning left there was a glass case on the front wall with two sections.)
Second Aisle: Front Wall: Section One
- Photos and information about Rose Wilder Lane.
- Particular attention on the writings of Rose Wilder Lane.
- Small section on Roger Lea McBride.
- Rose’s china tea cup.
- Biographies on Rose Wilder Lane.
Second Aisle: Front Wall: Section Two
- Photos and information on the Ingalls Family.
- Early photo of Charles and Caroline Ingalls.
- Mary Ingalls’s bead work.
- Carrie Ingalls’s fan and necklace.
- Almanzo Wilder in DeSmet.
- Charles’s Ingalls hymnal.
- Caroline Ingall’s China Doll .
Second Aisle: Front: Right Hand Side
(This is where my camera’s battery died.)
- Double case of Wilder’s personal artifacts.
- Wilder’s hat, gloves, home made quilt, china.
(Turning left, adjacent to the other case in between the front door of the exhibit and the double case of Wilder’s artifacts facing the large round table is the last glass podium.)
Second Aisle: Front: Middle
As you can see, the curator took her time to make sure that there was a comprehensive view of Wilder the writer, Wilder the woman and Wilder the pioneer. There is specific references to Little House in popular culture, as well as the people who were most important to Wilder during her life time. I particularly appreciated the references to other children’s lit during the period, the kitsch from the Little House on the Prairie TV show, and the attempt to give a picture as to what happened to Wilder’s sisters, Carrie, Grace and Mary. To me, this is where another really interesting story lies.
I shall leave you with the final “Journey” poster featuring Wilder and her husband Manly on the farm. I have always liked this photo. Perhaps because they know that they are at “Journey’s End” and are content with what they’ve done with their lives. Particularly Wilder, for she had the courage to write her stories like so many of us wish to do.