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Lincoln Museum’s living history volunteer plays “Miss Katie”

By: Carol Percy, Reporter
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If an “Oscar” award was given for a living-history performance, Karen Krenovsky might win for her spirited depiction of “Miss Katie.”

As a Lincoln Area Archives Museum volunteer for more than three years, Krenovsky is one of six docents who participate in the living-history program. Krenovsky talks to local students about the museum’s period kitchen exhibit.

Sassy and “take charge,” “Miss Katie” is based on a real Irish woman who worked as a housekeeper around 1905 for the wealthy owners of the Empire Mine in Grass Valley, according to Krenovsky.

As background for her role as “Miss Katie,” Krenovsky volunteered for 10 years as a living-history docent at the Empire Mine State Park’s cottage. During that time, she portrayed several characters, including a maid, Mrs. Phoebe Hearst and Miss Katie.

“She was the cottage housekeeper for the owners, Mr. and Mrs.William Bourn, II.  She lived (there) full time and considered it ‘her’ home,” Krenovsky said. “She explained to visitors how her wonderful, modern kitchen worked, including the beautiful wood cook stove. She also explained how she took care of the cottage, shopped and volunteered at the (local) orphanage. Of course, she always had cookies for the children.”  

When preparing for her living history role, Krenovsky researched the real Miss Katie’s life.

“I spent many hours in the cottage where she lived.  The era was ‘brought alive’ for me by reading copies of her letters, old printed interviews with those that came in contact with her and researching how the people lived at that time,” she said. “Copies of the old Sears and Roebuck catalogs were also helpful.  I enjoy slipping back into that time.”

Living-history sessions help children “enter into the time period more deeply,” according to Krenovsky.

“Bringing history alive makes it understandable and memorable. They’re more attentive. I repeatedly ask them what they think, which gets them involved,” Krenovsky said.

Now retired and living in Lincoln Hills, Krenovsky taught history for 35 years to fourth- and fifth-graders.

 The museum’s program currently provides living-history education to second-graders  from four local elementary schools. The program is offered to school groups two to four times a year. Special presentations are also open to the public once or twice a year, according to Cherie Weygandt, museum board treasurer and a program coordinator.

The Lincoln Area Archives Museum has six historical displays comprising the kitchen, blacksmith shop and sewing area. Miscellaneous exhibits include period toys and artifacts from the military, a 1930s-era school and Gladding, McBean.

The program helps local children learn about Lincoln’s history, according to Weygandt.

“They learn first-hand about their town’s history,” Weygandt said. “And our docents bring in a lot of pieces that belonged to their parents and grandparents that they’re showing (to the children).”

For more information about living-history presentations, call the Lincoln Area Archives Museum at 645-3800. The museum is at 640 5th St., adjacent to Beermann Plaza in downtown Lincoln.