Western History Museum doubles as archaeologist's home base - kotanow.com- Scottsbluff Area News, Sports, and Weather

Western History Museum doubles as archaeologist's home base

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When he moved to the area in 1980, George Zeimens thought he was trading his career as an archaeologist, for the livestock business.

"But people wouldn't leave me alone," recalls Zeimens.  "[They would ask me questions like], 'You're an archaeologist? We have this site that's been eroded away.  What can we do?' or 'We'd like to learn more, can you teach a class or two?' "

More than 30–years later, Zeimens is the executive director of the Western Plains Historic Preservation Association.

"Our main objective in the community is to salvage historic and pre–historic sites that are being lost from erosion of elements, and so on, and so forth," says Zeimens.

Lingle's Western History Center is the headquarters for Zeimens outfit, and it's also a working-museum.

"We have to have a place to store the artifacts and things that we collect through our work," says Zeimens, whose time is split between site excavations and analyzing extracted artifacts.

The Western Plains Historic Preservation Association has a number of active dig sites, scattered across Eastern Wyoming.  Among those is a one-thousand year old prehistoric site, just South of Fort Laramie. 

Another is located mere miles from the Western History Center in Lingle.  In the mid 1800's, Fort Bernard was an active trading post for those traveling the Oregon Trail.

To help with dig site preservation efforts, the Western Plains Historic Preservation Association hires high school students during the summer months.

"We also use volunteers on these sites, for working on them," says Zeimens.  "We get a lot of people who like archeology and don't mind getting their fingers dirty."

Zeimens says new volunteers are always welcome, because the past they're re-discovering... belongs to all of us.

"You know, these artifacts don't belong to me.  they don't belong to, really, the landowner," says Zeimens.  "They belong to the public.  They're a part of everybody's heritage."

The Western History Center in Lingle is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. through 3 p.m.

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