I’m posting a few images of the town of DeSmet, South Dakota; specifically, the buildings that have a connection to Laura Ingalls Wilder. The tour of these buildings is run by the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society in DeSmet. Our guide was quite knowledgeable. Unfortunately, the LIWMS does not allow photos of the interiors of the homes, but we were allowed to take shots of the exteriors. I’ll include them below.
It is difficult to compare the tours of the homes run by the LIWMS and the Laura Ingalls Homestead, which I described in detail here. They are quite different. Tom and Huck liked the Homestead best, because it had so many hands-on activities. The Homestead really makes the descriptions in Wilder’s books come alive. The tour of the houses has a museum-feel, as if we were looking at artifacts, but not necessarily connecting with them on a visceral level. As a fan of Wilder, though, I have to say that it was a thrill to stand in the room in which she once stood in the Surveyor’s House and wonder what it must have been like to feed all of those railroad workers and homesteaders.
From what I observed, neither the LIWMS nor the Ingalls Homestead has on display any first edition books or letters written by Laura. The antiquarian bookseller in me thinks that is a shame, because a display of something written in Wilder’s own hand would make a lovely addition to the exhibits. So would a display of Helen Sewell’s or Garth Williams’ illustrations. But maybe that is just the book-nerd in me. I’ve little idea whether many other people are interested in seeing part of her work in its original format. (Full disclosure: I do not have any manuscript pieces written by Wilder to offer for sale; I just think it is something they should consider obtaining.)
That said, I think you should visit both the Homestead and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society if you ever get to DeSmet. Visiting both places allows one to see the artifacts of the real-life Ingalls family alongside the opportunity to live (even if only for a night) the way the Ingalls family and many other homesteaders did. Both help the visitor to form her own opinions about Laura Ingalls and her way of life.
Now, here are the photos: