Library, museum reopening soon

Nathan Oster

More than three months have passed since the frigid day in December when a broken water line flooded the building the houses Greybull's library and museum as well as one of its most frequently used meeting rooms.

While the impact of the building's closure has been felt by many, progress on its rehabilitation has come swiftly in recent days — to the point where patrons may be able to see the many improvements for themselves.

"Finally, we might see light at the end of the tunnel," said town administrator/finance director Carrie Hunt, who has been coordinating the project along with Public Works Director Jason Lampman and members of the town's public works crew, since the building is owned by the town.

New carpeting has been installed on the library side. The shelves are back in place and were being lined with books Monday afternoon by librarians Julie Craft and Evelyn ____.  For the cleanup and carpet install, everything had to be moved to other parts of the building and a storage container behind the building.

Ted Menke, who serves on the library board, said about two-thirds of the library books went in the storage container. Staff from the various county libraries have and will continue to assist in the reshelving efforts, he said.

While no firm date has been set for the library, Menke said he's hopeful it will reopen by the third week of April.

"We'd like to coordinate a grand opening for the library and museum, but I don't think we'll be reopening at the same time," he said.

A little more time is going to be required on the museum side, a sentiment echoed by Eddie Johnson and Cheryl Hunt. Along with George Kelso, they are serving as the museum's board of directors, have filed incorporation papers and intend to pursue a 501(c)(3) designation to boost its long-term prospects.

The museum had been in a holding pattern since long before the water line break. For years it was guided and staffed by the late Russell and Wanda Bond, with help from Susan LaFollette. Wanda passed away last September after a stay in the nursing home, taking with her a great deal of institutional knowledge of the many exhibits and individuals and families that donated them.

Not long after the flooding, museum board members went to work on those items, many of which hadn't been moved and were collecting dust for years. Fresh paint was applied to the walls, with Gerard Crist taking the lead on that.  Shaylah Spragg was hired on a part-time basis and has also been instrumental in the clean-up and re-organization of museum exhibits, said Johnson.

This week figures to bring the installation of new tile flooring, likely Wednesday or Thursday, following by waxing.  "We're hoping that next week sometime, we can get our displays back in place — then the work will really start," said Johnson. "There's so much cleaning to do, but we can have the doors open while we are doing it," he said.

Johnson said the museum will be expanding its exhibits that document the life of John Borner, the town's founder.  Some of his descendants continue to reside here and Johnson said they're contributing items for the exhibit.

Johnson said the goal of the museum board is to present Greybull's history in more of a chronological fashion.  Several of the displays are being upgraded, too.  The Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody donated some gun cabinets that will be used to show the approximately "14 to 18" historic firearms that previously hung on a piece of plywood.

The caboose that sits in front of the building will be getting a fresh coat of paint, as well.  Johnson said some floorboards inside that are buckling will be repaired, the roof will be resealed and a deck will be placed on both ends so people can enter on one side and exit on the other.

One of the reasons the board is pursuing the 501(c)(3) designation is because it would like to pursue grant money to expand the museum.  

"We don't have enough room for everything," said Johnson, adding that some rotating of exhibits may be necessary in the short term.  

"Nothing will get thrown away," he pledged.

Further down the road, the museum board dreams of building a new addition on the east side that's tall enough to display the cast of an allosaur in addition to the exhibits that are going to have to be crammed into the existing space.

"We are excited about what we're doing," said Hunt, "but it's also a little terrifying because there's so much stuff and so little space and we're trying to honor the people who have given this stuff to the museum."

Johnson said he's been involved in the museum since the early 1980s. 

"It's kind of special to me," he said.

Several friends and firefighters have rallied behind the cause as well, he said, mentioning Gary Hansen, Chuck Spragg, Kyle Spragg, Lonnie Koch, Jared Waddell, Brant Ogg and Menke as members of his work crew.

"Every one of them wants to see the museum get opened again because they recognize its importance to the town," said Johnson. "I can't thank them enough ... and I can't thank the city enough for everything they've done.  Carrie, Jason, the town crew, everyone.

"We're definitely making progress, but man, does it seem like it's taking forever."