Finney County Museum’s new exhibit shows off old glassware and bakeware

As visitors enter the Finney County Museum, the first thing they will see are old-timey kitchen items.

The items make up the museum’s Front Door Gallery, an exhibit that changes several times each year.

Executive director of the Finney County Historical Society and Museum Steven Quakenbush said the idea of the display, entitled “What’s in Your Cabinet?,” is to generate nostalgia though Americana.

“The kitchenware and serving ware that you see here is part of Americana because Fire King, Pyrex, Glasbake, those kinds of pieces were used in American homes, including homes in Finney County and Garden City, in the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s and today,” he said. “This was a way to show some of the things that people might have found in their mother’s kitchen or grandmother’s kitchen or sometimes in their own kitchens.”

The exhibit was assembled by museum education coordinator Johnetta Hebrlee, assistant director and research librarian Laurie Oshel and receptionist Synthia Preston.

Hebrlee said the idea for the exhibit came up because she herself is a collector of old glassware and bakeware.

For the next year and a half, she and Preston began buying and collecting pieces from auctions, garage sales, estate sales and online.

All of the pieces in the display are from Hebrlee’s and Preston’s collections, as well as their mothers’ collections.

More than 100 pieces are in the display and include mixing bowls, cake and casserole dishes, plates and platters, cups, butter dishes, measuring cups, storage containers, citrus juicers and more.

The glassware and bakeware became popular decades ago because they were pretty and functional, Hebrlee said.

“The big selling point was it can go from the fridge to the oven,” she said. “But it started as an inexpensive way for women to have pretty and functional kitchen stuff.”

In addition to the glassware and bakeware, the display includes magazine advertisements for the products in the 1950s and '60s and an outline of the history of Pyrex, Glasbake and Fire King and development of borosilicate glass, which sparked creation of the glassware and bakeware.

Borosilicate glass was crated by Friedrich Otto Schott, a German chemist and glass technologist, Hebrlee said. He made laboratory equipment such as test tubes and petri dishes.

Schott’s pioneering work, along with the later development of soda-lime glass, paved the way for the three leading American manufacturers, and their competitors, to create extensive arrays of now-familiar bakeware and glassware products popular throughout the mid and late 20th century.

Quakenbush said the exhibit brings back memories for him.

“My mom had a couple of the pieces ... and my wife and I have two pieces that are the same as what are in the exhibit, a butter dish and salt and pepper shakers,” he said. “We were married in 1979 and we got those for Christmas.”

Hebrlee said she enjoys hearing museum visitors reminiscing about the items on display.

“We had an 86-year-old man in (Monday) and he said his aunt had those and his mama had those and then they got to talking about recipes,” she said. “(The exhibit) brings back those memories ... and that’s the kind of thing we were shooting for.”

The exhibit will be on display through midspring.