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Sunday
April 18th, 2021
L&T Opinions Page

earl watt mugL&T Publisher Earl Watt

 

Working on a new museum has turned out to be quite a chore, but rest assured, Liberal will have a new museum in the near future.

I serve as the president of the Seward County Historical Society, and if ever there was a group that could be considered the dyed-in-the-wool lovers of Liberal Seward County, it would be the people who serve and are members of the SCHS.

There is a legacy of community service and vision from those who served in the past. From acquiring the Larrabee home once located at Fifth and Lincoln and relocating it to the current location on Cedar to become the Coronado Museum more than 50 years ago to those who officially gave Dorothy a home in Kansas and established the Land of Oz in the late 1980s and early 1990s, preserving our past and sharing the unique story of living on the land and carving a community out of the prairie has been a passion and a mission for this unique group of people.

The next chapter will be the establishment of the Seward County Heritage Center, a new building that will allow us to share our history in a new and more modern way while continuing to honor the storied past we all share.

The new facility will provide us the necessary space to showcase a unique Native American exhibit and provide an exhibition hall for special events and traveling exhibits.

When you work on a board for such a massive undertaking, the work does not progress at the speed you would like. A project like this requires input from a variety of people to insure the new facility carries out the promise of serving the community in the best way possible.

This new facility will have a genealogical research center as well as a place to showcase the history of the Liberal Bee Jay baseball program. Somewhere scattered across our community are five national championship trophies, some at the museum and others elsewhere. We would love to give them a proper space that can be shared with the community.

And we also need space to restore artifacts and to store the massive collection that has taken more than a century to acquire.

As you can tell, this type of project doesn’t happen over night. It also doesn’t happen in a year, or even two.

We have acquired the services of an architect to help us as we compile the plan for this new facility, and we have recently opened discussions with our local engineering firm to help us finalize the bid package that will be released to select a contractor for the project.

We have researched buildings from coast to coast to evaluate the type of building, lighting, facade and more we want to provide our community, and even beyond that, we want this building to be an attraction that will draw guests from the entire region.

Tourist dollars are clean dollars. People who visit museums would be considered the prefered customers of almost any business, and with traveling exhibits rotating through the new facility, we will have something to offer our friends in Garden City, Dodge City and other surrounding communities that aren’t offered in their own towns.

This requires a very large building, and the SCHS is taking every step to make sure what we provide will be able to serve the community in ways we cannot serve with the limitations of size in the current Coronado Museum.

Where we have about 3,200 square feet of space today, the Seward County Heritage Center will be closer to 11,200 square feet.

While we continue to finalize our plans, some may wonder if the passage of time is a sign that we have decided not to build a new museum.

Nothing could be further from the truth. We have decided to build a new museum the right way. We have raised a significant amount of money dedicated to this project, and as soon as we get our bids, we will see how close we are to having all the money we need.

We are currently working on an artist rendering of the building so we can show the community the vision we have.

The Seward County Heritage Center plan has evolved over the past couple of years, changing the type and style of the building to the interior layout and more.

Sometimes, projects don’t move as quickly as we would like, but I know once the ground is broken on this project, there could not have been any more we could have done to make sure it was done right.

Watch for more in the coming months as we advance this project.

If you have any ideas, we are more than welcome to explore how this building can serve the community as a whole. Feel free to email any suggestions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or to call 620-624-7624 and share your ideas with JoAnne Mansell.

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