The Clayton Museum of Ancient History – York

Unexpected in Central Nebraska

When I read about the Clayton Museum of Ancient History in our Nebraska Passport book, my husband said “why have I never heard about this before?” Now, after seeing it – I agree – why have we never heard of this before? Historical information from that far back is not typically discussed in a state wrought with “trails west”, “pioneer” or “homesteading” history.

Housed in a building on the York College Campus, one heads into a side door and then downstairs to see the museum. The building and facilities are quite nice. At first we weren’t sure where we were going though.

What Was in Store

A person that I assume was a volunteer stamped our passport books and encouraged the kids to go play. I asked a little bit about how this kind of museum developed in York. He explained that it was related to a collection that Mr. Clayton owned that was donated to the college to create the museum. He also explained that two college graduates from the area returned home to create the “Little Kingdom” for kids – by far the coolest part of the museum! I see on their website that guided tours are offered for a small charge and explain the history of the collection. I am sure that tour provides more detailed information than I learned in my few quick questions.

The museum itself is pretty neat. Real artifacts of ancient history are displayed (under glass of course). I thought the ancient “grenade” was quite interesting – a shell stuffed with gunpowder. The swords made for quite the display as well. Pages of Bibles from 1500 and 1600 AD era and even 1200 AD handprinted pages were carefully preserved under glass. A catapult (I would have to assume a replica) stood full-scale in the corner. A fun statue of a Roman soldier was available to take pictures with. A exhibit of pottery from the Bronze and Iron Age (BC timeframes) had been previously exhibited — too bad – those would have been neat to see.

The museum also featured some neat displays explaining history. Of course, there was the typical informational displays but the computerized map, showing the rise and fall of the Roman Empire was especially cool. The year gradually changed from BC forward through early AD and showed which parts of the world belonged to who. It was so interesting to have a visual of this phenomenon.

The museum did seem very centered on biblical history – but not in a way that would turn off those who aren’t religious. It was all part of history and presented in a very historical way. An exhibit on the history of the Bible was noted to be planned soon.

Kids Fun

The “Little Kingdom” was done extremely well! One thing I appreciated about this museum was that it was geared to learning but instead of kids being an after-thought – the museum almost seemed geared to kids, with “an adult section”. The Little Kingdom was available right away when coming into the museum. It took up about a third of the museum and was almost it’s own mini-children’s museum, like you would see in a bigger city.

Upon entering, there was a whole ancient Roman kitchen – with food that would be traded or baked and hanging herbs, scarves to dress up with to be more “Ancient Rome” fashionable, and a stone oven that glowed very realistically! Everything had obviously been well taken care of!

Further down there was baskets of fish and boats that rocked back and forth. Children could climb on them and pretend they were fishing. Walls with child-friendly descriptions of “ancient times” adorned the wall explaining “the market”, the dress, ancient housing and more.

Moving on, a small ancient house, complete with a stall for livestock in the house as was done in ancient times was set up for children to explore with excellent descriptions of what early houses were like.

Finally, an archeological dig was set up with brushes and tools for kids to “dig” up ancient artifacts – it was huge and right up the alley of my boys who love to dig and fill buckets.

On top of it all – the very kind volunteer gave replica ancient coins to each of my boys. Two “silver” pieces and one “gold”. (They fought over who actually received the gold coin!) I felt that this entire “Little Kingdom” was like “the Ancient History Wing” of a Children’s Museum in a large city like Denver or Chicago.

There was no charge to visit the museum. I read later online that donations were welcome but I didn’t see a collection container. I feel badly that we didn’t think to/didn’t realize we should donate, because the experience was well worth a donation. Clearly, the community members involved with this project are very proud of it and have cared for it an displayed it well.

I would recommend about 45- minutes to an hour to spend here. It’s not big, but it’s very well done and the chance to get to see some really unique things abound. However, there is plenty of scope for the imagination for kids to play for a couple hours in the Little Kingdom.

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