smith zimmerman museum

History Happens Here


           Students walk to and from class, passing one fascinating building; however, not many go inside. The Smith-Zimmerman Museum, now known as the Lake County Museum, has been a part of our campus for 60 years. The museum contains a rich collection of the history of Madison and the surrounding communities. “It’s a little hidden treasure,” said Julie Breu, the museum’s director. Breu is spot on; walking into the building transports you back in time. There are items to pique everyone’s interest, from art to guns from the Spanish War. Two fire wagons from 1895 sit in the middle of the museum. If you are looking for a laugh, a cure-all machine was created to heal diabetes, hysteria, and even cancer!

           Breu works with students all over campus. She is currently working with a graphic designer to rebrand the museum. Julie is working hard to keep up with the times by incorporating technology into the exhibits. She is working with another student to integrate sounds into the replica rooms. Breu admitted that walking around a museum and seeing the items is not enough anymore. New generations need an interactive experience as well. Currently, she is working on creating oral histories of students, professors, and people in the area. Her goal is to have a documented account of 2021, so in ten years, students can come and see what life was like only ten years ago. “History happens here, on campus, every day,” said Breu. She is right; we all know that 2020 will be in the history books. Breu encourages students to visit with friends and explore.

History is integral to our education, whether you like it or not, and Breu knows this. Julie has a vision where the museum is bustling with life. There are opportunities for research, internships, and even career avenues. The archives are overflowing with information about this area in South Dakota. Breu wants the museum to be more than looking at old items, but is a place where you can learn and hone your craft. She is looking for students on campus to get involved. Advisors talk about students not being able to find internships. Most students and professors forget about an opportunity-rich place right here on campus. Breu wants the student body to be more active within the museum because she feels it offers so much. “The museum explains who we are, how we got here, and why we are still here,” said Breu.

           So, if you are looking for a great excuse to avoid homework, your dorm, or even humans, stop by the Lake County Museum. It is open on weekdays from 10 to 2. You will not regret it.