Rural museum returns, looks forward to bigger splash next year

Oct. 11—PLATTSBURGH — The Babbie Rural and Farm Learning Museum marked its return to operation this month after a sidelined year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Peru museum hosted its annual Harvest Weekend on Saturday and Sunday, when it allowed visitors to observe antique equipment in use, participate in pumpkin paintings and other fall activities.

Leeward Babbie, the museum's CEO, said he started the museum in 2010 as a way to preserve an older way of living.

"We like the stress, the rural living," he said. "My concern was to preserve a lot of this equipment and buildings. I like to preserve some of that old stuff because they don't make them anymore. That was my biggest concern."

The museum displays tools, time-period buildings like a general store, farm activities, animals and more. Babbie, a farmer before he retired, started the Rural and Farm Learning Museum with equipment he owned. Through donations and acquisitions, the museum grew to now include 14 buildings.

Babbie said that, for older visitors, the museum can be a time piece to their childhoods.

"(The museum) brings back a lot of memories because they, like myself, grew up with this older equipment," he said. "It brings back good memories for a lot of people."

"The people who come here are kind of special. They want to see all the equipment working," he continued.

In a typical year, the museum gets visits from about 15 to 20 schools from the surrounding area, and in a good weekend, can expect about 200 visitors, Babbie said. But the museum decided to postpone the school visits for a second year due to safety concerns.

"We decided not to do it this year just to be on the safe side, because (the coronavirus) is still out there," Karen Babbie said.

Karen Babbie said schools bring in students for field trips and are normally split into groups across six of the museum's stations. As they progress through the museum, students learn about how older kitchen appliances were operated, daily chores and daily life on a rural farm without electricity.

"We try to give them a timeline of things," Karen Babbie said. "Take them back in the day."

Although the museum doesn't expect to welcome school trips this year, the Babbie Rural and Farm Learning Museum is still open to the public.

But the museum's staff will be looking ahead to next year, when they hope they can welcome back students.

"Hopefully COVID will be gone, and we'll be able to what we used to do, especially with the schools," Karen Babbie said. "But next year, we're looking to hop back on the bandwagon and get back to it."

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