A new look at Mustang heritage

SMSU’s Alumni Heritage Gallery will be getting an update this year. The first step: reorganizing the displays.

Photo by Deb Gau Jennifer Andries sorted items of SMSU memorabilia from a cabinet in the Alumni Heritage Gallery earlier this week. Volunteers are reorganizing display items in preparation for new gallery displays.


They had to work fast, Stacy Frost said.

With the student center at Southwest Minnesota State University quiet during spring break, a group of area volunteers had a short window of opportunity to do some major moving and sorting. On Tuesday afternoon, Andrea Hess helped unlock drawers and glass cabinets in the university’s Alumni Heritage Gallery and carefully pack up everything from documents and mounted photographs, to a collection of coffee mugs.

There were some amazing things in the gallery, she said — for example, the signatures of the charter students of what was then Southwest Minnesota State College, or a scrapbook devoted to past student workers.

“It was really neat to see all that, and go through the school’s history,” said SMSU student Kalley Kloos. Kloos, a Minneota resident, was one of the volunteers helping to reorganize the gallery. The next step for Hess, Kloos, and Lyon County Museum director Jennifer Andries would be taking stock of the display items.

The Alumni Heritage Gallery, located on the upper floor of the SMSU Student Center, showcases the university’s history, memorabilia and alumni achievements. The gallery was planned in 2005 by a committee including SMSU staff and alumni. This year it’s getting an update for the university’s 50th anniversary, said Frost, the director of development at SMSU.

“This is definitely the first step, finding out what you have,” she said of the reorganization.

Volunteers Tuesday were sorting the gallery display items by some general categories, like university buildings, faculty or student life. After that, Andries said, the plans for a new display can be fine-tuned.

Some of the same organizers involved with creating the gallery, including Frost, Hess, Jan Louwagie, Kathy Paxton, and Mary Jane Striegel, are working to update it. They’ve been joined by Andries, Kloos, and Minnesota State University – Mankato student Chelsey Polfliet.

When the Alumni Heritage Gallery was built, the displays were organized chronologically, going from the founding of Southwest Minnesota State College, to the present, Frost said. The new plan is to have displays focused on the themes of “Prairie,” “People,” and “Possibilities.”

“The themes are all from President Connie Gores’ inauguration speech,” Frost said. The goal for the gallery update is to use those three categories to tell some of the personal stories connected with SMSU’s history.

Part of the challenge, volunteers said, will be deciding how best to tell those stories and how the gallery’s collection of items fit the themes.

“A lot of things here honestly could go to all three categories,” Hess said.

Frost said committee members also hope to display some artifacts that haven’t been part of the gallery yet. Frost said the committee is working with SMSU alumni and supporters to bring in new items for display.

A new entrance will be part of the gallery’s new look, Frost said. Bend-Rite Custom Fabrication will be designing a new entrance for the gallery.

“It will be something that really has a presence,” she said.

The goal will be to have the gallery updates finished in time for the university’s 50th anniversary celebrations in September, Frost said.