Teacher, students bring forgotten museum back to life

  Thursday, November 2, 2017 2:00 AM
  Giving Back, People and Society, News

Pittsburg, KS

Teacher, students bring forgotten museum back to life

A Pittsburg State history teacher and PSU students from sveral departments have helped bring a forgotten museum back from the brink of being closed forever.

The Crawford County Historical Museum had for several years struggled financially, drew few visitors, and had just one staff member who was not paid, with no volunteers and no board. That staff member turned the keys and the contents over to the Crawford County Commission in May 2015. 

A few months later, with the endorsement of the commission, Amanda Minton, an adjunct history teacher in PSU's Department of History, Philosophy, and Social Sciences, stepped forward to lead the effort to revitalize and reopen it.  

"I'd done an internship at the museum as a student," said Minton, who earned her bachelor's degree in 2003 and her master's degree in 2011, both from PSU. "I felt strongly that it be saved." 

Joining her was Mason Lovelace, who holds a master’s degree in history from PSU and now serves as vice president of the board. 

“I read about the museum’s plight and it tugged at my heartstrings,” he said. “It’s an asset that was lost to the community, and I knew we ought to do something about it.” 

Minton, Lovelace, and others leveraged community resources and grants to help make repairs and carve out new and interesting spaces. They developed a new logo and a new online presence. 

And they engaged groups of PSU students. They didn't have to twist too many arms. 

"Cadets in the program are always looking for positive ways to make an impact," said Savannah Mitchell, a senior from Louisburg who is a member of Pittsburg State ROTC.  

Mitchell and her fellow cadets signed on to assist tasks like moving heavy collections, reconstructing exhibit walls, and during large events, traffic control and parking. At recent World War II re-enactment, they engaged with visitors by providing an up-close look at military vehicles. 

"The re-opening of the museum has provided a learning experience for all ages and we are honored to be a part of that," Mitchell said. "History is and always will be an important part of our future career as Army Officers, and we are lucky to be a part of a town that finds preserving history is important. Understanding the heritage of the United States and what the soldiers before us sacrificed to protect this country’s freedom is invaluable."  

PSU Freshman Lauren Hurt, from Pittsburg, remembers as an elementary school student going to the museum on field trips — particularly the historic general store located on the museum grounds. 

She was happy to be part of breathing new life into it as a member of Circle K, a collegiate service club that Minton advises. Circle K also plans to volunteer to help at the upcoming 1940s Christmas party and next summer, with childens' programs.  

Other PSU groups involved include the PSU Volleyball team, which cleaned and organized the grocery store and school house, Interior Design students who created the Pioneer Room Exhibit, and the School of Construction, which is building a pavilion for outdoor educational events. 

"I think Mrs. Minton is doing a great job in bringing more attention to the museum and making history fun and interactive," Hurt said. "She is doing a lot to attract more visitors." 

Minton said she's not done yet. 

"It is overwhelming to believe how much was accomplished in under two years, but there is still much to do," she said.  

That includes a new facade to give the museum a new look. Over Christmas break, all fluorescent lights will be replaced with LED bulbs and new flooring will be installed in the Education Room. 

"As a PSU alumna, I feel that it is important for the students and faculty to give back to the community that gives so generously to our University," Minton said. "When we perform community service alongside students, we are teaching the students how to get involved in the community and after graduation, and they hopefully will want to donate their time, talent and treasure to their future communities."

To learn more about the history museum, visit https://www.crawfordcountymuseum.com/

To learn more about PSU's history program, visit http://www.pittstate.edu/department/social-sciences/history/



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