Golden Museum opens for season, displays to awe patrons
April 13, 2016
For anyone who hasn’t gone to the Golden Museum down in the southern most part of Barry County, go. Take the time, make the drive, but plan to spend most of your day there.
It’s rare that a museum has “something for everyone” despite most advertising as such. In the case of the Barry County treasure in Golden, it’s true. Spanning the walls and shelves of the museum are everything from vintage lunch boxes to massive crystals and minerals to items confiscated from the county’s own jail to war memorabilia to glassware that glows under blacklights to Native American artifacts to...the list seems to never end.
I’ve been to the museum a few times over the years, each time led through room after room by owner Winfred Prier. Winfred and his wife, Lee Ona, opened the museum in 1993 after acquiring a collection from the Trail of Tears Museum in Huntsville, Ark. But don’t be fooled, before that, Winfred was a collector and told me that he finally decided to build it when he ran out of attic room.
For me, Winfred’s stories of how he got the various collections are as interesting as the artifacts themselves. Some are fairly straight forward: someone called, the Priers bought the collection, and it was added to the museum. But some of the stories are more interesting than that.
Winfred added a nest of preserved dinosaur eggs to the museum this year, one of only four known nests in the world that contains more than 20 eggs. This one has 29. “The woman wanted to sell it to send her daughter to college, so they called me. A lot of people call me.”
Oftentimes a prized collection enters the doors because the owner passed away and asked to have it displayed for others to enjoy. Some collections are for things long since forgotten, like over 1,300 intricate butter dishes or crystal vases for flowers in cars, the original air freshener.
Winfred remembers where most of the things in the museum came from, with a handful of them bearing tags to indicate their previous owners' roots. Some tags show where grandkids have given Winfred pieces for the collection. You’ll also see some local history in a space dedicated to Cassville High School’s football State Championship wins in 2008 and 2009, a team their grandson played for.
Some pieces are world-record holders. Others are just impressive in their own right. Winfred and Lee Ona’s collection rivals many others. He said, “I saw a guy who said he had the largest desert rose in the world. So we stopped by and saw it.” Winfred chuckled, “I didn’t tell him I had one twice as big at the museum.”
The sheer massive size of some of the minerals, like the desert rose, which is actually selenite, a rock that looks like rose due to sand erosion in deserts, is enough to take your breath away. Other jaw-dropping samples include crystals, amethysts and others. Many had to have special platforms built to hold their weight. Winfred said, “At first, I didn’t want ‘em. Why would you want just a bunch of rocks. But after looking at them, I’m just amazed.”
Winfred doesn’t pretend to know the history of everything in the museum or the origins of how his extensive mineral collection formed, but he does have a deep appreciation for all of them. And, if I’m honest, I’m sure he has forgotten more history than I ever knew to begin with.
So take an afternoon or a day, make the drive to the curve where Highways 86 and J meet and enter the most interesting museum I’ve stepped foot in.
The Golden Museum opened for the season yesterday, Tuesday, April 12, and will stay open through the summer until October 31. The hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with special tours available after hours by reservation. Admission to the museum is free, but guests are welcome to make donations.
Their website is www.goldenpioneermuseum.org/ and they are on Facebook under Golden Pioneer Museum.