The centre’s mission is to interpret and celebrate the history and contributions of Welsh pioneers on the North American prairies, and to further public understanding and appreciation of America’s ethnic and cultural diversity. It is open every Sunday afternoon from Memorial Day through Labor Day, or by appointment.
The museum was formed in 2000 as a tribute to the Welsh immigrants that came as early as the 1860s to the Wymore area. Wymore was centrally located so it became a division point for the Burlington Railroad. The railroad was one reason for the Welsh to settle in this part of the state. A scale model of the original Burlington Depot can be found on Wymore’s Main Street. It features a telegraph machine, scissor telephone, log books, and timetables.
Museum and Archives
On a section of the original railroad tracks sits a motor car and freight wagon that was used to haul freight from the railroad to the stores in the local towns. After many years, the routes changed for the railroad and the depot was closed. But you will still hear the whistle blow at 8:00 a.m. for the railroaders to go to work, at noon for lunch, at 1:00 p.m. for them to go back to work, and at 5:00 p.m. for the end of the workday. The depot is open by appointment.
The Centre includes a historic schoolhouse. This was originally located two miles south of Wymore, on the northern end of the established Welsh settlement. Many children of Welsh, German, Czech, and Irish descent attended the school until it closed in 1960. To preserve this symbol of rural education, the building was moved to its current location in McCandless Park in Wymore along Highway 77. In 2019, the school underwent a historical restoration returning it to its late 1800s appearance. Most of the artefacts included in the building are original and will take you back to the days of ‘readin’, ‘ritin, and ‘rithmatic.
In 2013, we added a state-of-the-art archive building to the museum. We are the only repository of the Welsh-language newspaper Y Drych in microfilm format, with issues dating back to 1851: a great reference for genealogists and researchers. The archive was constructed to withstand a tornado, is climate- and humidity-controlled, and includes a fire-suppression system. All artefacts are stored in archival, acid-free containers.
Welsh on the Plains
There was a time when the Welsh language was widely spoken in this area on the streets, in the shops, and on the party lines. Exhibits of Welsh culture are featured throughout the Centre such as Welsh dinnerware, Welsh woollens, love spoons, and other memorabilia. We have hosted eight Welsh festivals in the past and look forward to doing so in the future. In celebration of Nebraska’s 150th Sesquicentennial, we produced a mini-documentary about Welsh-American history.
Refreshing the past
The board and volunteers of the Great Plains Welsh Heritage Project have been hard at work in recent years, updating the exhibits and facilities at the Great Plains Welsh Heritage Centre’s sites in Wymore, Nebraska: the Welsh Heritage Centre itself, the Historic Pleasant View Schoolhouse, and the Railroad Museum. Volunteers gave two areas inside the Welsh Heritage Centre a fresh coat of paint, and rehung historic textiles for easier viewing, including a quilt sewn in 1910 to raise funds for the Welsh church in Denver.
Exhibits have been refreshed with additional interpretive panels, and new items are now displayed, most notably: an original map of Wales printed in 1610; a 1930s dollhouse modelled on Y Bwthyn Bach, the Welsh-built playhouse presented to Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret; and furniture and portraits from Wales donated by Welsh-born Nebraska agronomist Rosalind Morris. The research library has also been reorganized and volunteers continue to preserve and catalog items in the archives.
To expand its outreach, and as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Great Plains Welsh Heritage Project has created a virtual tours of some of its sites, available on its website. Please follow the Great Plains Welsh Heritage Centre on Facebook for further developments, including exciting news of the upcoming North American Festival of Wales.
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