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Boxholm Museum: One Man’s Work

David Peterson cares about Boxholm, Iowa.  He’s lived there almost his entire life (He told us that he hasn’t even left Iowa since 1969).  The town once had a population of 1,000.  Now it’s down to about 200.  “There’s just nothing here,” David said.  “You go more than four blocks in any direction, you’ll be in a corn field.  I gotta drive 20 miles to get a haircut.”

Yet for the past two decades David has labored to build a museum solely about Boxholm and the six square miles of Grant Township that surround it.

David bought Boxholm’s abandoned 100-year-old bank — probably the most impressive structure in town, after the grain elevator — and began turning it into his museum in 1991.  He still hasn’t finished, but he’s almost there (“A couple more years.”).  And he does gives tours of the museum — although he can’t understand why anyone from further than six miles away would want to come.

“If you’re looking for rare and valuable antiques, there aren’t any,” he told us.  “This is a hobby that got out of hand, and it’s too late to quit.”

Working alone, David has collected Boxholm’s castoffs since the 1960s (He told us that a second building in town is filled with artifacts that he can’t fit into the museum).  We had read that David had saved every canceled check in the town’s history, but he said that wasn’t true.  “My canceled check collection only goes back to 1930-something,” he said.

The bank’s walk-in vault displays David’s most prized items, while the rest are showcased in exhibits and custom cases that he has meticulously built.  “I try to put labels on everything in the building,” he said, “so in case I drop, people will know what this and that is.”

David’s laser-beam focus echoes Ed’s Museum in Wykoff, Minnesota; his one-man ethic evokes the Battle Hill Museum in Battle Creek, Iowa; and his personal attachment to his collection reminds us of Historic Auto Attractions in Roscoe, Illinois — all places that David will probably never see, since they are far outside of his geographic comfort zone.

David has never publicized his museum.  He hasn’t built it to impress anyone, not even the dwindling population of his beloved town.  “It doesn’t matter to me if anyone ever comes to the museum,” he told us.  “It’s just personally satisfying.”  Still, he’s happy to give tours to anyone who’s interested — but you have to call first, and you have to be lucky and catch David when he’s around.  He has no computer, no cell phone, and no answering machine.

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Robert Johnson Died On This Corner

289 Young St., Greenwood, MS
On the northwest corner of Young and Pelican Sts. I-55 exit 185. Drive west on Hwy 82 for 23 miles into Greenwood. Turn right at the traffic light onto Bowie Lane. Drive north until it ends, and turn left onto Carrollton Ave. Drive a little over a half mile and then turn right onto Ave. A. Drive two blocks north and then turn left onto Young St. Drive two blocks.
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One Response to “Boxholm Museum: One Man’s Work”

  1. Judy Riley Says:
    February 8th, 2009 at 9:50 am

    What’s good for David is inevitably good for those looking for Iowa curiosities. Who says there’s nothing to see in IOWA?! When I come to Boxholm I plan to peek in the museum window and hang around until I find David and get a tour.

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