‘Some of Our Favorite Things’

Bell County Museum director Stephanie Turnham reflects on a favorite photograph depicting the open door of a church in Central Texas.

The Bell County Museum staff selected rarely seen items from its permanent collection to feature in its latest exhibit, “Our Favorite Things: Staff Selections from the Collections,” running through Aug. 3.

Staff members spent two weeks choosing and coordinating their selections before the exhibit opened July 2.

Displayed items include a World War I doughboy helmet, World War II photographs from the Battle of Iwo Jima, letters that a young Monahans soldier wrote home before he was killed in action in France in 1944, a U.S. Army nurse uniform, a German submariner’s cap and a Japanese memorial flag.

Around the corner from the war hero memorabilia is a silk Victorian wedding dress, a black two-piece wedding gown and a peacock feather fan.

“I love the fan,” said museum director Stephanie Turnham. “This dress … to be from 1874, you see that it’s missing a couple buttons, but other than that this is a miracle dress. It’s just in beautiful condition.”

Turnham pointed to a black velour wedding dress.

“This dress is not the most beautiful in the collection, but it’s the oldest one,” she said. “The original part of this dress (the sleeves and the bodice) was made in 1767, but things like this shoulder epaulet were most likely added in the 1880s.”

She chose the piece because of its many alterations, which reflect female bodily changes during the changing times.

Museum program coordinator Troy Gray said the telephone in the main display case is among his favorites.

“I just like the story about how the operator needed to connect everyone, and she knew everything that was going on,” Gray said.

Another of his favorites is the Salado bathtub.

“Essentially, it’s a bathtub from the past,” he said. “It may be hard for people now to take a bath in that. Not because it’s all rusty, but because the material it’s made of, we don’t have today.”

People believe the metal-lined wooden tub was the first tub in Salado, Gray said.

A mink shoulder stole is on n display with a USO doll, a Purple Heart medal and a pair of blue and white women’s cowboy boots.

“The children really like the mink scarf over here, especially the girls,” Gray said. “They can’t imagine wearing animals.”

Visiting children of all ages are encouraged to enjoy the interactive aspects of the exhibits. Hanging on the wall at the entrance are scavenger hunt cards featuring items on display. Also, beside the reproduction of the Thomas Gainsborough painting “Blue Boy,” the Make a Label is reminiscent of a Mad Lib. The idea is to help visitors understand the making of label placards that describe displays, said museum assistant Emily Dossman.

Admission to the museum is free. The museum is open noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday- Saturday at 201 N. Main St. in Belton.

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