UNL Larsen Tractor Museum Unveils New Exhibits, New Mission April 12

UNL Larsen Tractor Museum Unveils New Exhibits, New Mission April 12

Lance Todd, exhibitor manager at the UNL Lester F. Larsen Tractor Test Museum


Lance Todd, manager of exhibits at the Lester F. Larsen Tractor Test and Power Museum, installs grass in the new exhibit. The project showcases an Oliver 60 and SC-Case in a setting that resembles an overgrown grassy area behind a barn. (Source: Troy Fedderson, UNL University Communications)


UNL's Lester F. Larsen Tractor Test and Power Museum is getting a new look and a refocused mission.

The new direction — which includes a mission to showcase tractors that were innovative and/or actually tested at the UNL facility — has allowed for the museum's limited space to be opened up and advance an industrialized design theme.

The ongoing project includes creation of an art exhibition space, which opens this week. Still to come are a new welcome space and gift shop, a conference room, and an update of the museum's library/archives.

"In my first year here, my goal was to figure out what we have in the museum's collection that is important and better define the mission of the museum," said Lance Todd, exhibit manager sinice 2012. "Now, we are working to feature the important stories this museum should tell, showcasing things you will not see at other ag-related museums."

The updated mission is on display in a new exhibit that showcases an SC-Case tractor tested at UNL and an Oliver 60 with a unique decorative design. The exhibit shows both tractors as if they were stored for many years in a grassy area behind a barn — a realistic setting that breaks from the museum's traditional display of tractors parked inside the historic Nebraska Tractor Test building.

Display at Lester Larsen museum

"The Oliver from the 1940s is one of the earliest models that features a stylish, modern design. It really wasn't until the late 1970s that other tractor designs became similar," Todd said. "The Case tractor was one that was officially tested and stayed at UNL. It became a utility tractor that was used for many, many campus projects."

The exhibit, which Todd developed with help from Chelsea Hullerman, a junior actuarial science and agribusiness major, is being readied for an April 12 open house.

Opening this week at the museum is the Bill Splinter Memorial Gallery. The space, which once showcased various farming tools, has been updated for art exhibitions. The renovation was funded through donations made in memoriam to William "Bill" Eldon Splinter, founding director of the Larsen museum.

The inaugural exhibit showcases tractor drawings by Craig Russell, a 1994 UNL graduate and quadriplegic who drew by holding a pencil in his mouth. Russell died in 2011.

"We plan to have the first exhibit up through the summer months," Todd said. "We would like to rotate displays through on a regular basis. We've already started to collaborate with other museums to create future exhibits."

Postcards of Russell's drawings will be sold at the museum. Proceeds will benefit a scholarship fund at Fairbury High School, from which Russell graduated.

Other completed projects that have helped reshape the museum include: creating a new museum logo; loaning tractors to other museums to free up space inside the museum; adding new photo hangers, cedar planks and corrugated metal to walls to give a modern look and increase the industrial feel of the space; improved lighting by refurbishing existing fixtures; and creating a new exhibition area that looks like the inside of a barn (located opposite the SC-Case/Oliver 60 exhibit).

While the historic building — constructed in 1920 and the original home to the Nebraska Tractor Test facility — offers ongoing challenges in terms of display space and maintenance needs, Todd said it remains the ideal place for the Larsen Tractor Test and Power Museum.

"The biggest asset this museum has is this historic building," Todd said. " This is the space we need to be in to tell the history of the Nebraska Tractor Test facility. And the location, right next to the current tractor test facility, is perfect for showcasing ongoing and future research."

The museum will host an open house, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 12. Activities include tours of the museum, free food and drinks, a tractor show and tractor pull for kids.

Individuals can enter tractors in the show by contacting the museum at ltodd6@unl.edu or 402-472-8389.

The Kiddie Tractor Pull will be divided into three age categories. Prizes will be awarded to the top three finishers in each age group.

For more information, go to http://tractormuseum.unl.edu.

Troy Fedderson
University Communications



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