Real life on the farm
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Old World Wisconsin interpreters Cait Dallas and David O’Hara take a break from chores. Photo courtesy of Old World Wisconsin.
EAGLE -- If you’re sick and tired of this summer’s heat and the added stress it can cause, be glad that you aren’t a member of the Wilhelm Krueger family, living on a farm in central Wisconsin in the 1880s.
If you think the heat is too much as you travel between air-conditioned environments, imagine what it would feel like to do just about anything when your only respite from the sun is the shade of a tall tree.
(Read all of this week's stories from Walworth County Sunday HERE. )
That’s just one of the things you quickly learn upon visiting Old World Wisconsin to experience a small slice of what life was like for late 19th-century Wisconsinites. The state historical museum’s “Life on the Farm” area, which opened in June, allows visitors to take a step back in time, not only to learn about what life was like for the Krueger family, but also lend a hand and experience some of the chores that were daily requirements for them.
“The idea was to help make the museum more interactive, to get people to look at history a little differently,” said Old World Wisconsin Director Daniel Freas, who came to the facility earlier this year from Conner Prairie Interactive History Park near Indianapolis. Freas said he has worked with similar concepts in his previous position.
Access to “Life on the Farm” is included in the 600-acre living-history museum’s admission price. Upon entering the experience, which is located in OWW’s German area and encompasses the Koepsell farm, each visitor is asked to choose a member of the Krueger family to portray. Choices include patriarch Wilhelm Krueger, his sons August and Henry, his daughter-in-law Mary, and Mary’s sisters, Martha and Hannah. (See sidebar for more info on the Krueger family.)
Visitors receive a card that contains a photo of the character, a brief history and biography, as well as a list of three tasks, which that person may have been responsible for as part of his or her daily chores. The cards also have a 21st-centruty twist: They each contain a QR code that can be scanned (using a smartphone app), which delivers the user directly to a website with a more detailed description of that character.
“It gives (visitors) a sense of what it was like to live in Wisconsin during the late 19th century,” Freas said. “Instead of just hearing about life back then or having someone (an OWW employee) demonstrate a task, they get to get in there and get their hands dirty a bit.
“A lot of times, they don’t even realize they are learning.”
It appears to be working. Freas said the museum attracts approximately 60,000 people per season, which runs from April to October. This year, he said, attendance is up about 5 percent -- in spite of the hot, dry weather.
For the complete story, see HERE.