Union County Museum volunteers got a bonus while moving a more than 100-year-old linotype machine out from a wall earlier this year.
Hidden history was discovered behind the heavy machine, a large envelope from the Idaho Historical Society filled with 24 black and white photos of members of the Nez Perce Tribe. Many of the images capture the Nez Perce in exquisite ceremonial dress, featuring decorative necklaces, beadwork, headdresses and moccasins. The photos are not dated but there are clues indicating they were taken in the late 1800s.
Sharon Hohstadt, a volunteer for the Union County Museum, knew right away that the photos needed to be displayed.
“They were too good to resist,” Hohstadt said.
The value of the photos is such that she did not want them to be at risk, so Hohstadt had prints of the photos made. Nine of the duplicates are now part of a new exhibit at the museum, which opens Sunday for its 50th season.
The Nez Perce display includes a photo of Pio Pio Tolekt, described by an Idaho Historical Society caption as a Native American who worked hard to keep the religion of the Nez Perce alive. The faith in question may have been the Nez Perce’s Seven Drums religion, also known as the Washot or Longhouse religion, according to www.reference.com. Other faiths of the Nez Perce include the Dreamer and Feather religions.
The display also features photos of a Nez Perce Indian identified only as “Jason” who is credited with being among those of his tribe who went to Washington, D.C., to protest how his people were treated by settlers in the Northwest in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Another photo shows a Nez Perce child in a cradleboard. Cradleboards were once part of daily life for most Nez Perce families, according to www.oregonhistoryproject.org. Mothers used them to carry children on their backs. They were a convenient and safe means of transporting infants. Next to the cradleboard photo is one of a standing Nez Perce child dressed in decorative clothing.
“As they grew up, children took great pride in ceremonial clothing,” states a photo caption from the Idaho Historical Society.
Photos in the display also show a Nez Perce dance and a sweathouse, a structure in which heat and water are used to create steam that cannot escape. Sweathouses were often built next to creeks to provide people a place to cool off, according www.digitlcollections.lcclark.edu.
The photos in the exhibit are all enclosed in protective frames made by Dick Hohstadt, Sharon’s husband.
In addition to their age, it is not known who took the photos in the exhibit. Sharon Hohstadt said she plans to send a letter to the Idaho Historical Society requesting information about the photos.
The Nez Perce photos might not have been discovered if the linotype machine had not been so heavy that it was causing the wooden floor of the museum’s main building to sag, Hohstadt said. This is the reason the machine was thus moved to the museum’s Agriculture and Timber building where there is a concrete floor that can better support it.
A linotype machine is a composing machine that produces lines of words as single strips of metal. Linotype machines were once commonly used by newspapers.
The new display is not all that visitors to the Union County Museum will notice Sunday. They will also see new front doors that increase the museum’s security. Another new feature the museum has is an exhaust system that pushes out humid air under the building. This is meant to keep the wooden portions of the museum’s base from rotting, Hohstadt said. The exhaust system and the new doors were purchased with funds from a $4,500 grant the museum received from the Wildhorse Foundation.
The museum’s 50th anniversary will be officially celebrated Sept. 6 when its Pioneer Day will be conducted to show people what life was like more than a century ago. Those scheduled to be present include a candlemaker, a Dutch oven cooking specialist, knitters, weavers and a blacksmith, Hohstadt said.
The Union County Museum, at 333 S. Main St. in Union, traditionally opens for the season on Mother’s Day. On May 12, the museum will be open from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., and no admission will be charged. After Mother’s Day, the museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. each Sunday. The museum will remain open for its 2019 season until the end of September. Regular admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, $3 for students, and there is no charge for age 6 and younger.
Hohstadt said the anticipation leading up to opening day is always exhilarating for the museum’s staff of volunteers as they take on last-minute preparation challenges.
“There is pressure,” Hostadt said, “but it is very exciting.”
For information on the museum call 541-562-6003.