Crawford County Historical Museum Reopens

by Megan Stoneberger Johnson

photos by Jeremy Johnson

After a year of being closed, the Crawford County Historical Museum has reopened. On Saturday evening, more than 80 community members came to see the changes that have been made to prepare the museum for business.

“We have been working on this since Labor Day weekend…and it has been months and months of scraping and peeling, on our hands and knees removing mold… and refurbishing exhibits,” Amanda Minton, president of the museum board, said of the work that has gone on at the museum. “We wanted to give the museum a fresh look.”

“We have done a lot of rearranging and found items that were obscured,” Mason Lovelace, vice president of the museum board, said. Renovations also include a new meeting area with a kitchenette where local organizations can host meetings.

Many community organizations–including SEK Tractor Club, National Guard, Boy Scouts, and PSU’s volleyball team and interior design department–have lent a helping hand to the effort as well.

Guests view part of the mining exhibit in the museum, which is one of many covering different facets of life in Crawford county.

Along with community volunteers, additional funding made the reopening a possibility. BJ Harris, director of Crawford County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said,”It took some leadership from the county’s perspective, from the commissioners, to see the vision.”

According to Harris, the Crawford County Convention Visitors Bureau developed a task force including Harris, county commissioners, and volunteers from the area’s museums to look at sustainable funding for all the museums in the county.  Eventually a portion of the funding was provided by the Visitors Bureau, as well as from the county.  In order to maintain funding, the museum must meet certain criteria, including having 2,000 visitors per year, have adequate parking and restroom facilities, and be open 5 hours a day for 6 days a week. It’s important, Harris said, that the museum be a tourist attraction. “It is very exciting to have this back open as part of our whole experience of Southeast Kansas,” he said.

County Commissioner Jeff Murphy, who attended Saturday’s event, said, “I think it’s important to preserve your history; if you don’t, it will be lost.”

Amanda Minton said this is just the beginning. The museum board is also seeking individuals to become Friends of the Museum by making a financial contribution. Friends of the Museum will help to bring in traveling exhibits, which would bring “culture we so desperately need in Pittsburg, Kansas,” Minton said.

Minton envisions an education center that would enable live demonstrations and presentations to accompany the exhibits in the museum. “Also, with this funding we want to have talking exhibits,” which Minton explained would include iPad stands that bring the physical exhibit to life through reenactments and stories. “There are so many ideas that we have.”

The museum also features an old grocery store and a one-room schoolhouse on its premises.

The Crawford County Historical Museum will be open on Fridays and Saturdays from 10 to 4 and on Sundays from 1 to 4 until May when the museum will begin its extended hours Tuesdays through Sundays. The museum includes exhibits on Crawford county’s mining history, life on the prairie, printing history, and much more. Lovelace said, “It’s not just nameless faces; it’s actually people in this community who we know.”