The Pratt County Historical Society Museum is now displaying more of John Hartman's Native American collection.
More Native American history is now on display at the Pratt County Historical Society Museum. The John Hartman collection of Native American artifacts is one of the most impressive in the country and it's on display at the museum. The display is so extensive that only about one third of the display can be shown at a time.
The second rotation of the exhibit is now on display at the museum and features artifacts from the Southwest and Alaska along with some local pieces, said Curator Charmaine Swanepoel.
The Hartman exhibit is truly unique and whether its someone who has never seen the exhibit or has visited several times, they will want to come and see this newest part of the display and be amazed again, Swanepoel said.
While Hartman collected many artifacts himself, he sometimes purchased pieces from other collections. The Alaska collection, that has just gone on display, is an example. Hartman purchased the Alaska collection from Paul Barker and it has examples of ivory carving, baskets, wood carving, clothing and snow shoes. Many of the ivory pieces are from the Inupiaq tribe, Swanepoel said.
One of the new items on display is a woman's vest from Plains Indians made with thousands of tiny glass beads. Swanepoel said the vest was kind of dusty when she started preparing it for display but once she cleaned that vest and put it under the display lights, the thousands of glass beads caught the light and the vest sparkles.
Among the oldest pieces on display is a handful of prehistoric pottery. Although no specific date is attached to the pottery pieces, these cooking vessels, from Casa Grande, are have been reassembled to their former shape and are a fine example of items used in the ancient past.
John Hartman started collecting Native American artifacts when he was just 8 years old and used money he got from delivering the Pratt Tribune to purchase his first artifacts. As an adult, he was an art teacher in Great Bend for 34 years. He spent his summer vacations traveling extensively across the country collecting and buying Native American artifacts. Much of his collection comes from the Southwest in the Four Corners area, much from Santa Fe, plus items from California, Alaska and some pieces from the Pratt area.
Hartman had an amazing knowledge of the pieces he collected and could recite where they came from, what tribe and what time period. Unfortunately, Hartman never wrote any of this information down so much of the history was lost. When the Hartman left the collection to the museum, it took a long time for the Swanepoel and her staff to research the items. Some items were easier to research than others and some more difficult pieces to catalogue have no particular date.
"It's very hard to know the circa (approximate date the item was made)," Swanepoel said.
The Pratt County Historical Society Museum is located at 208 South Ninnescah in Pratt. The museum is open from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission for non-members is $4 for adults, $2 for 12-18 and children 11 and under are free. The museum phone number is 620-672-7874.