The Star of the Show: Our Brown County (1818-2018)

Aimee Suzanne Kruse-Ross

aimee suzanne kruse-ross | the neville now | june 2018

Did you know that Brown County only has one natural inland lake formation? Did you know that a Brown County resident worked on the special effects for “Star Wars: A New Hope”? From John Jacob Astor to Ashwaubenon Bowl and beyond, the Neville Public Museum's new exhibit Our Brown County, 1818 – 2018, celebrating the 200th anniversary of Brown County, presents the many pieces of the mosaic that make the county what it is. And many of those will have even the most ardent local history buffs taking notes.

“Instead of doing your typical history exhibit, we decided to commemorate our 200th year by doing 200 stories: 50 people, 50 places, 50 artifacts and 50 photographs. It was difficult narrowing them down, and in the end, we chose things that were the most representative of Brown County,” says curator Lisa Kain.

More than two years in the making, Our Brown Countytook the brainstorming of eight participants to assemble these 200 stories and, in the end, it all boiled down to 200 years of history that focuses on what makes Brown County unique, as well as demonstrating the complex, rich and diverse history of not just Green Bay, but Denmark, Wrightstown and surrounding areas.

It's difficult to say what piece of history visitors will find themselves most engaged in.

Perhaps it will be the Vietnam flight suit worn by the late Brown County resident John Evans. Evans served as a combat aerial photographer (1965-1973) flying high above the Vietnamese, Thai and Philippine landscapes. Although under enemy fire numerous times, Evans was never shot down. His flight suit stands as a testament to determination and sheer luck during vicious times.

“The flight suit was the winner of our artifact tournament,” says Kain. “We let people vote on the items that they felt would be of the most interest in the exhibit and this suit took first place, receiving the most votes.”

In another nod to other historical battles, visitors may choose Brown County's original Civil War-era flag as their favorite exhibit. This 12 foot by 8 foot, canton-designed, 157-year-old flag originally flew in Old Fort Howard during President Abraham Lincoln's tenure. This flag was hand sewn in the rare “Great Star” pattern with 34 stars representing the 34 states of the Union from 1861 to 1865. The flag was originally unveiled during a Civil War rally to encourage volunteers to sign on as soldiers for the war effort. After its stint at the fort, and residing elsewhere, it came to the Neville in 1934 where it has remained ever since.

“This is the largest artifact in the exhibit,” says Kain. “Of course, it is very delicate and it needed considerable effort in order to strengthen it enough for this exhibit. We ended up building a special case for it, as well as special lighting to help preserve it.”

Of course, no Brown County exhibit would be complete without the Packers and Green Bay's favorite team has a section dedicated to the Green and Gold. Highlights from the careers of Larry McCarren and Ha'Sean (Ha Ha) Clinton-Dix and their contributions to Green Bay community are at the forefront.

“Both of them were chosen for this exhibit because of what they've done for the community,” says Kain. “We wanted to highlight a couple of those Packers that have taken an enormous interest in Green Bay and made this city their home.”

Whether it's antiques, compelling stories or photographs from the past that move you, the impressive size and scope of Our Brown Countyis not to be missed. Visitors of all ages can expect to come away inspired and proud to be a part of the living history of Brown County.

Here's to another 200 years.

Our Brown County (1818-2018) runs now through October 27, 2019, at the Neville Public Museum. For more information on this and other exhibits, please visit nevillepublicmuseum.org.

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