Out of the vault

The Bell County Museum has pulled many hidden treausures out from storage in its most recent exhibit. The exhibit included several items that belonged to former Texas Governor Miriam “Ma” Ferguson

BELTON — Mikaela Young, curator of exhibits and collections at the Bell County Museum, gave a brief tour Saturday of the museum’s newest temporary exhibit, “Out of the Vault: Hidden Treasures of Bell County.”

The exhibit of about 95 historic artifacts includes quilts, art, photographs, communication devices, musical instruments and medical equipment. It opened Nov. 6 and will run through Jan. 23.

“The idea was to get our volunteers, staff, board of directors and collections committee involved,” Young said. “We asked anyone to select artifacts from the museum’s permanent collection that they enjoyed. Some of the artifacts were selected for historical significance, some for artistic value — or if someone just liked something.”

A World War II artillery shell, for example, was selected by the museum’s office manager, Steven Rise, a U.S. Army retiree, she said.

“As you can see, there’s a little bit of everything,” she said. “I would call this the technology section.”

She pointed out a Victrola record player, an Edison phonograph for cylinder recording and a 1970s 8-track player.

“One of my favorite pieces is this quilt,” she said.

It was pieced by Gov. Miriam Ferguson, the first female governor of Texas, who was from Bell County.

Ferguson pieced it into squares probably in the 1940s, Young said, and then it was finished by a local quilting club in 1991.

Young pointed out a photograph of a young woman, Stella Talley Mathews, probably taken about 1900. It was selected by Rebecca O’Connell, a museum volunteer who Young said was inspired by the woman’s hat.

“It’s kind of a mix,” she said of the collection. “You have a lot of World War II items that people selected, and then kind of a variety of other things as well.”

The display also had an interactive section, designed by Kayte Ricketts, education coordinator, for people to vote on their favorite out of 10 artifacts she had selected.

Alex Boivin , one of the museum volunteers, paused to admire a red dress worn by the Duchess of Belton in a 1998 pageant in Waco. Young said it was the newest of all the exhibits on display.

“It’s amazing,” Boivin said. “It looks like it was custom made. It made me think of my figure skating dress when I was little. I was unaware the museum had one like that.”

Young pointed out a few medical items, including an ether gas machine she said might date around 1940-1950. David Sandfer , a medical professional, selected it, she said.

“It reminds him of what his predecessors would have used,” she said.