- Associated Press - Saturday, December 24, 2016

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) - A historical museum has reopened in southeast Kansas about a year after it closed amid concerns about how to fund it and whether it was even worth saving.

The Crawford County Historical Museum was shuttered after the museum struggled financially, drew few visitors, had only one unpaid staff member and no board. The keys and contents were turned over to the Crawford County Commission in May 2015, The Joplin Globe reported (https://j.mp/2hZ8FE4 ).

At the time the $10,000 annual funding from the commission to maintain the museum hadn’t increased since it opened. Utilities and insurance for the building were about $1,000 per month, and the roof was in bad shape.

Word of the museum’s closure prompted an outcry until a task force, led by B.J. Harris, who heads the Crawford County Convention and Visitors Bureau, worked on creating a funding proposal for the commission.

“We had to figure out what we needed to do to make it more sustainable, and our first hurdle was making sure people believed it was an asset and needed in our community,” Harris said. “Once we discovered it was overwhelmingly ‘yes,’ then it became what does the role of it play in tourism and in the county.”

The CVB and the commission came to an agreement: To receive $25,000 - 55 percent coming from the county and 45 percent from the CVB - the museum must have 2,000 visitors per year, provide adequate parking and restroom facilities, and maintain a consistent schedule. The museum previously had been open only on weekends.

Amanda Minton, an adjunct history teacher at Pittsburg State University, and Mason Lovelace, who holds a master’s degree in history from PSU and now serves as vice president of the museum board, stepped in to lead the effort to reopen the museum.

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

Lovelace said he found that a lot of people felt the same way.

“Its three major problems were volunteers, funding and getting people through the door, and we knew if we could tackle each of those, we’d be a success,” he said.

Minton, Lovelace and others leveraged community resources and won grants for roof repairs and tile replacement. They scrubbed away mold, organized clutter and carved a new education area out of existing space, with conference tables and a kitchen nook. Other additions include a new logo, a new website, a new Facebook page and banners.

This summer, children were invited to free themed sessions. History enthusiasts staged a Civil War re-enactment. Crafting workshops, demonstrations and meetings for local organizations also pulled in visitors. More than 2,650 people have visited the museum since April 11.

“What they have achieved in being open in eight months has been pretty outstanding,” Harris said. “I think they’re just getting started - this is just the tip of the iceberg.”


Information from: The Joplin (Mo.) Globe, https://www.joplinglobe.com

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