Saying Goodbye to a LauraLand Legend…Dr. John E. Miller

If you haven’t heard yet, I’m sorry to share that last Friday, 1 May 2020, beloved #LauraIngallsWilder biographer and historian of South Dakota, small midwestern towns, and the social history of these and many related topics, passed away unexpectedly. I’ve debated for almost a week how I wanted to memorialize him. His biography, BECOMING LAURA INGALLS WILDER: The Woman Behind the Legend, is my favorite of the LIW biographies, and his essays on her life and work were insightful, honest, and enriching of the collective wisdom. Losing Dr. Miller means losing a legend of LauraLand, and I’m sure my sense of loss is shared by thousands.

A stack of my copies of books authored by the late Dr. John E. Miller, SDSU Professor Emeritus of History, d. 1 May 2020. Note I have two copies of LIW’s Little Town. Dr. Miller and I met and “talked shop” on numerous occasions, and over the years I asked him to autograph various books. The bottom four in this stack bear his autograph. When he signed the HISTORY OF SOUTH DAKOTA, he asked, “Why did you buy THIS book?” I told him that I wanted a reliable state history for my Meet LIW presentations, and his name on the jacket was all I needed to know that it was going to be a solid choice! I hope that made him happy to hear.
Photo copyright Melanie Stringer/Dakota Yankee Research, 2020.

This was a really nice piece from the Brookings Register (Brookings, South Dakota, where Dr. John Miller lived and worked for most of his life). Oddly, there was no mention of his LIW work.

I had the great good fortune to meet and socialize with him on several occasions over the last decade in my professional work, and he was always a font of information and intriguing stories that piqued my interest in numerous sidelines to my own research. He was a great supporter of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association, and was our featured guest on many occasions at our academic conferences, including last July in Onalaska, Wisconsin. I’m currently the incumbent Co-Chair of the LIWLRA’s Conference, lovingly known as “LauraPalooza,” had planned on inviting Dr. Miller to attend our next (#LP22) conference as a matter of course. As a Public Historian, I feel honored to have had so many opportunities to learn from him both directly and from his numerous publications while simultaneously feeling a terrible loss, both in the niche of Laura Ingalls Wilder study and within the broader topics of South Dakota and midwestern history.

https://brookingsregister.com/…/sd-historian-miller-passes-…

BROOKINGS – On April 30, longtime Brookings resident and South Dakota State University historian John Miller got up early and headed to EdgeBrook Golf Course.

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Remember your favorite museums on Giving Tuesday

It’s that time of year when everyone wants something, and, in turn, everyone feels obligated to buy, spend, acquire, wrap, send, deliver, bake, host, feed, comfort…WHEW! That’s a lot of work. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

But, here’s an idea: in lieu of buying useless junk for the people in your life who already have whatever they could possibly need, keep it simple. Take the money you’d normally spend on joke gifts and ugly ties and, instead, donate some of it to your favorite places. Museums and charitable organizations that focus on the human experience are a fantastic place to start!

And, when you need a creative gift for someone who perhaps doesn’t get out much but loves exploring new places, why not offer a gift certificate or membership to a place you already love, and you just know they’d love too?

Museums in particular are often overlooked in charitable giving, but they are exactly the kind of institution where donors can see the good their dollars are doing. When you give to a museum, you see the new coat of paint or the upgraded security system or the climate-controlled display cases that your money helps to buy. But that’s not all. Museums give so much back to their patrons, in the form of unique experiences.

Museums offer respite from stressful daily routines, and provide a calm, go-at-your-own-pace learning environment. Museums allow the visitor to experience incredible art, ideas, and events from our collective past, and frequently offer a window to the potential of our collective future. Museums offer demonstrations of lost skills, and hands-on classes to explore your own artistic ability. Museums bring great thinkers and creators to a wide range of audiences who might otherwise never get the chance to ask a pointed question of an expert in their chosen field. Museums give everyone a chance to discover new things on their own terms and in their own time. But most of all, museums give us so much for so little of our hard-earned money. And they do it with a smile.

Think about it; where else but at a museum can you see priceless artifacts for a little pocket change? Or, in many cases, for free? Where else but in museums can you spend an entire day staring at the same object, painting, or manuscript without anyone disturbing your concentration? Where else can you spend the day or week contemplating the same re-constructed dinosaur or investigating the contents of an original homesteader shanty without anyone questioning your sanity?

You guessed it! At your favorite museum.

So why not take a little time today, on Giving Tuesday, to say thanks to all your favorite venues that welcome you all day, all season (or all year) for just the price of a latte or a single taxi fare?

Most of these beautiful repositories of history and art receive little if any grant funding, and no tax dollars at all. That’s right, NO TAXPAYER SUPPORT. Yet a lot of them let you in the doors for free, or almost free, admission. Most of the employees are working at or just a bit above minimum wage, yet a large percentage of them have a Master’s degree or PhD–or more! These are experts in their field, with a vast wealth of knowledge and skill, yet they work for virtual peanuts. And most museums are also heavily dependent upon the generosity and hard work (for no pay!) of volunteers and interns. Think about it: how much does it cost to have a nice meal out at your favorite restaurant? How much for that entrance fee for ONE DAY at Disney? Can you spare little for your favorite nerdy getaway?

Here are some suggestions:

Almanzo and Laura Ingalls Wilder Association/ Almanzo Wilder Farm, Burke, NY:
http://www.almanzowilderfarm.com/join.htm

Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum and Tourist Center, Walnut Grove, MN:
http://walnutgrove.org/store/page17.html

Little House on the Prairie Museum, Independence, Kansas:
http://littlehouseontheprairiemuseum.com/Little_House_on_the_Prairie_Museum/Support_LHOPM_This_Winter.html

Laura Ingalls Wilder Park and Museum, Burr Oak, IA:
http://www.lauraingallswilder.us/membership/

Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum, Pepin, WI:
http://lauraingallspepin.com/a-special-message

Spring Valley Methodist Church Museum, Spring Valley, MN:
http://www.springvalleymnmuseum.org/wilderinfo.html

Laura Ingalls Wilder Home and Museum, (aka Rocky Ridge Farm) Mansfield, MO:
http://www.lauraingallswilderhome.com

Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society, DeSmet, SD:
http://www.discoverlaura.org/donation.html

Old Sturbridge Village, Sturbridge, MA:
http://www.osv.org
https://www.osv.org/donations

Genesee Country Village and Museum, Mumford, NY:
http://www.gcv.org
https://www.gcv.org/Support/Donations

The Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer, Grand Island, NE:
http://www.stuhrmuseum.org/give/annual-fund-drive/

Keystone Historical Society, Keystone, SD:
http://www.keystonehistory.com/contactus.html

Historical Society of Cheshire County, Keene, NH:
http://hsccnh.org/join-support/donate-now/

American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, MA:
http://www.americanantiquarian.org/support.htm

Mark Twain House, Hartford, CT:
https://www.marktwainhouse.org/support/support_us.php

Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, Hartford, CT:
https://www.harrietbeecherstowecenter.org/support/

Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House, Concord, MA:
http://www.louisamayalcott.org/contribute.html

…Oh, and, let’s not forget the academic organization that honors every aspect of Laura, and brings us together every few years for the one and only LauraPalooza:
Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association (LIWLRA):
http://beyondlittlehouse.com/about-2/join/

…just to name a few. Feel free to add your suggestions, below!

Thanks for reading, and thanks for keeping the doors of your favorite institutions open with your generous contributions. Together, we can all help these happy places stay alive, and thrive!

 

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Visiting the Little House on the Prairie Museum, near Independence, Kansas, July 2011. 

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Burial Ground of some of the earliest Ingalls ancestors in America, at North Andover, Massachusetts, 2014. Photo copyright Dakota Yankee Research/Meet Laura Ingalls Wilder, LLC.

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My Dad inspired my love of history from an early age. This was a visit to Nova Scotia in the ’70s; my Mom was the photographer. Photo copyright Dakota Yankee Research/Meet Laura Ingalls Wilder, LLC.

 

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Almanzo’s parents helped establish this church in Spring Valley, Minnesota. Laura and Almanzo and Rose attended services here when they lived with his family in 1890. Photo copyright Dakota Yankee Research/Meet Laura Ingalls Wilder, LLC.

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Volunteers Jim & Marilyn Lusk have devoted numerous summer seasons donating their time, research, and labor to the Almanzo Wilder Farm in Malone, NY. They also enjoy portraying James and Angeline Wilder, Almanzo’s parents, at special Wilder Farm events. They are most certainly two of my favorite #MuseumVolunteersOfNote!

The National Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association Conference, aka “LauraPalooza 2015,” Call for Proposals is Here!

Have you heard?

Planning for the National Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association Conference, affectionately known as “LauraPalooza,” is well underway, and the Call for Proposals has been issued as of 25 August 2014.

The theme of LauraPalooza 2015 is “Through Laura’s Eyes: Imagery, Illustrations, and Impressions from the Little House.”

This is the third national conference of the LIWLRA, to be held 16-17 July 2015 at South Dakota State University in Brookings, South Dakota, followed by and optional field trip to Laura’s “Little Town on the Prairie,” DeSmet, South Dakota, on Saturday, 18 July 2015. Academic submissions from all disciplines are encouraged. Submissions will be accepted for consideration and possible acceptance for presentation through 5 December 2014 (Rose Wilder Lane’s birthday) and acceptance notices will be issued 7 February 2015 (Laura’s birthday–see what they did there?).

Proposal submission details and guidelines can be found here:

Click to access Call-for-Proposals-LP15.pdf

Oh, and, if you know the significance of the date chosen to issue the Call for Proposals (25 August 2014) you really, really should consider attending the conference, whether you’re submitting a proposal or not!