Great Platte River Road Archway Monument
That archway that extends over I-80 in the middle of Nebraska? It's a museum with an audio tour, all designed by a Walt Disney team.
I can't tell you how many times I've driven underneath the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument in Kearney, Nebraska. It extends across I-80, so anyone who's driven through Nebraska has seen it. Yet I never stopped....
(Most of the photos of the monument and trail are posted at the bottom of this page.)
I don't really know what to call the monument. A museum, perhaps? It's designed by Disney, and it's an audio tour of the migration west across the United States. Wherever you're standing in the monument, your headset picks up the proper channel for what you're looking at. So, you can move through the exhibits quickly or leisurely. It first discussed the first settlers who moved west in wagons on various trails, like the Oregon Trail and Mormon Trail. It talked briefly of encounters with Native Americans, but not so much of the displacement of native people and land. The tour went on to cover the railroads, but it didn't discuss the controversial issues of Chinese railroad workers at all. Finally, the tour talked about the national highway system and even showed old automobiles, which was pretty cool. We could also test the speeds
of the cars driving on the highway below us. I enjoyed the tour, and it was well made, but I definitely got the feeling it was only covering our "happy" history and turned a blind eye to the social issues of the times.
Thankfully, there is a "cultural learning trail" that covers some of that missing history. From the entrance of the archway monument, you can walk across a bridge that goes over the Platte River. There's then a trail that winds along the river. There are some plaques that cover some of the history of some native people. There's also a Pawnee earth lodge to walk around and peer into. A replica of a sod house, like the ones settlers would have lived in, is also along the trail. Nothing is in bloom yet, but apparently the trail is lined with native plants and grasses, as well as butterfly gardens to attract native pollinators.
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