August 13 and 14 presentations in neighboring communities feature similarities between modern day issues and those of 100 years ago

“Bus-eum” presentations link modern day issues to 100 years ago ... This museum on wheels will offer presentations on similarities between today’s headline issues of COVID-19 and social injustice, and the “Spanish” flu and the Ku Klux Klan from 100 years ago. Presentations will take place this Thursday, August 13 in Decorah and this Friday, August 14 in Prairie du Chien, WI. Submitted photo.

A “museum on wheels” presentation featuring the foundations of and comparisons between modern day issues and their similarities to events and issues from 100 years ago will be taking place this Thursday and Friday, August 13 and 14 in neighboring communities. “Hidden or Forbidden No More: Prequels to the ‘Greatest Generation,’ 1914-39” examines, among other topics, how Midwesterners reacted to two “plagues” - one viral, the other social.

One of the featured presentations and tours is scheduled to take place Thursday, August 13 from 12 noon to 8 p.m. in the parking lot behind Oneota Food Co-op, located at 312 West Water Street in Decorah. Another showing is scheduled for Friday, August 14 in Prairie du Chien, WI from 12 noon to 6 p.m. at Lawler Park, located at 430 North Water Street at the north shelter.

Similar to today’s headline making issues of the COVID-19 pandemic and the racial and social unrest more recently emerged, the “bus-eum” presentation on wheels will explore the flu pandemic of 1918-19, as well as the prominence of the Ku Klux Klan in the Midwest during the early 1920s. The exhibit and related programs intend not to blame or shame, but explore long-lasting effects of short-term collective choices.

Based out of Mason City, the TRACES Center for History and Culture will show its all-new exhibit in the “bus-eum,” a mobile museum in a retrofitted school bus which houses exhibit space. In addition to the similarities to modern day pertinent issues, the presentations will also feature anti-German hysteria during WWI, Prohibition-era bootleggers in the Midwest, and Depression-era social strife borne of the times.

In Decorah, Birgitta and Marguerite Meade will read excerpts from letters their grandfather and his brother - at the time, both Luther College students - which chronicle the spread of the “Spanish” flu, not only through the college but also the larger community. Presentations are also planned about the Klan in the Midwest at 12 noon.

As TRACES’ executive director Michael Luick-Thrams explains, “We were supposed to be on the road with our new exhibit for eight months, but Corona shredded those plans, so the tour shrunk to two-and-a-half months. But it’s exactly because the case studies we present on the bus are such a revealing mirror to our current mess that we have to take it to where the people are, now. Our current disaster didn’t just erupt in our midst out of context: This exhibit’s dovetailing topics help us understand how we got to this place - and if we think carefully, how to get out of it. Above all, we’re in this together. In an era marked by hate, fear and paralysis, our exhibit and presentations strive to cultivate compassion, courage and action.”

In accordance with COVID-19 restrictions, the number of people able to view the outside presentations available through the bus will be limited to 25 at any time and those in the waiting line will be asked to stand on tape or chalk marks on the sidewalk, six feet apart. Hand sanitizer will be available and mask-wearing is mandatory, as is maintaining distance while viewing the exhibit panels mounted on the outside of the bus.

Visitors to the bus can get a print version of the exhibit catalog, so they can take the text and illustrations to digest in the quiet safety of their home. The local presentations are just part of an entire tour the “bus-eum” is undertaking across the Midwest between now and the November election.

For additional details about the “bus-eum” or its presentations, contact or 515-450-1548. The featured video presentations available on the “bus-eum” can also be viewed online at

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