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Laura Jahr

In this 2016 file photo, Staley Museum director Laura Jahr sits in front of a display featuring some of the many products produced by Staley Mfg. Co. The museum features the history of the company, family and athletic teams.

Name: Laura Jahr

Age: 54

Occupation: Director of the Staley Museum and associate director of the Hieronymus Mueller Museum

City of residency: Forsyth

How would you summarize the importance of A.E. Staley and Hieronymus Mueller's impact on Decatur's history?

Both of these men were vital to the growth of Decatur. When I discuss them, I refer to them as a part of our "founding fathers" group.

These businesses (Mueller Co. and the A.E. Staley Manufacturing Co.) are both important and really put Decatur on the map. I definitely consider them to be vital to the growth of the community. 

Do you think that the community's understanding of their contributions has grown since the founding of the Staley and Mueller museums? 

Definitely, but think we still have a long way to go. It's an upward challenge to keep people looking back and learning about their local history. Kids learn about national history in their history classes at school, but there's not as much talk about local history.

Everybody in their own community benefits from institutions like museums and historical societies.  

What is it about local history that interests you? 

The best part of local history is that it's our community's story. When we look at these artifacts, look at photographs or documents, we're not just looking at someone else's story. We're looking at stories that happen in our community. 

It's not something far away, and it's not something away from us. It's a part of us. The names are recognizable, the people who worked at these companies may still have family that work there. The great part is that it's our story. 

Do you have any favorite museums that you like to visit? 

The smaller museums appeal to me the most because I work at a smaller museum. One museum that I think is a feast for the eyes is the quilting museum in Paducah, Kentucky. They move things around regularly there, so you're guaranteed an artistic show. The quilts are amazing. 

I also love the Mark Twain museum in Hannibal, Missouri. There's just so many, I don't even know where to begin!

For those who haven't stopped by a museum recently, why should they consider paying a visit to one?

Museums give people an opportunity to connect the dots in information.

Whether its about their community in the case of local history sites, and (people) look at a certain type of information, all of a sudden you can see it in their face when it happens: their mind starts connecting dots to things they already know. It's an extraordinary thing to see happen. 

A look at previous Herald & Revew '5 Questions'

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Contact Jaylyn Cook at (217) 421-7980. Follow him on Twitter: @jaylyn_HR


Government Reporter

Government reporter for the Herald & Review.

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