Hastings Student at UNK Gives Frank Talk

KrisAnn Sullivan
Frank House director, 308.865.8284 OR sullivankw@unk.edu

Amelia Oerter, a University of Nebraska at Kearney student from Hastings, is handling parts of history. As the student collections manager for the Frank House museum, located on the University of Nebraska at Kearney West Campus, Oerter uncovers new hidden treasures on a daily basis.

Oerter will get to showcase her knowledge when she hosts the “Behind the Scenes: Student Collections Management” program at the Frank House on Saturday, Feb. 28, at 1:30 p.m. During this presentation, she will introduce guests to the Frank House museum collection, showcase some of the pieces and discuss her duties as the student collections manager.

“I get to find really neat things,” Oerter said of her work at the mansion. “I open boxes, I open drawers, and it could be anything. The coolest thing I’ve found so far is this clip shaped like a duck head that you can screw into the wall.”

The Frank House mansion was built in 1886 by George William Frank. After the Franks moved out in 1900, the mansion was used as a private sanitarium by Dr. Grothan until it was sold to the state in 1907 to become part of the Nebraska State Hospital for the Tuberculous. Once the hospital closed in 1971, restoration on the house began as it became part of UNK, known then as  Kearney State College. The house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

Oerter is one of 14 UNK students presently working part-time at the Frank House. In addition to work study students, there are service learning and practicum students. A sophomore history and English secondary education major fromHastings, Oerter said she is always excited to be working at the Frank House. Whether it’s handling collection pieces or cataloging records in PastPerfect, an online museum collection management software program, she is right at home working in the mansion.

She started working at the Frank House as part of a service learning requirement for her education major. While she is studying education, she said that a career in education is a backup career plan; history and museums are where her heart truly lies.

Before working at the Frank House, she spent two summers working in museum collections at the Hastings Museum. Besides cataloging collection records, Oerter admits that a perk of the job at Hastings was handling and cleaning the museum’s extensive gun collection.

“They have a huge gun collection, and the museum did a new exhibit,” Oerter said. “I’ve never shot a gun, but I’ve held hundreds.”

As captivating as her current job is, Oerter admits that it’s not always easy. Her duties at the Frank House include sorting collection records, inputting data into the computer and making sure every item in the collection is properly cataloged.

There are more than 2,000 objects in the Frank House collection, which contains a little bit of everything including antique furniture, period clothing, a collection of silver serving pieces, bed linens that date back to the 1890s, dishes that belonged to the Franks and collectible books.

There are also a few selected pieces of furniture from the time the mansion was part of the Nebraska State Hospital for the Tuberculous. While many of the items belonged to the Frank family, some have been donated by individuals and families from the Kearney area, and all of the items need to be appropriately noted in the records.

Oerter says that matching each item to its corresponding record can sometimes be a challenge.

“It just gets frustrating when I can’t figure out who donated something or what something is, and I can’t figure out the significance of it,” Oerter said. “You know the record will say a blue cup, and I can find six or seven blue cups, and I don’t know which cup it is.”
The knowledge and experience that Oerter brings to the position is something that Frank House museum Director KrisAnn Sullivan appreciates. Sullivan said she was looking for a student who had an interest in a museum career. Oerter’s background in museum collections and software was a plus.

“She is very conscientious and has an understanding of museum ethics,” Sullivan said. “She is very detail-oriented but can also see the whole picture which allows her to prioritize. Our goal is to have the entire collection management system updated before she graduates.”