Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Brief Look at Abilene's Historic Buildings: the Kirby House, Abilene Club

The Jeffcoat Photography Studio Museum is currently featuring the exhibit City on the Plains: A Look at Abilene Architecture until early January.  The following is a brief look at the Kirby House, which at one point was known as the Abilene Club.

Courtesy of the Jeffcoat Photography Studio Museum
Thomas Kirby was an Abilene banker who began his career working for another prominent banker, Conrad H. Lebold. Kirby built his home on the original site of the home of the father of the cattle town, Joseph G. McCoy. In later years, the home underwent a major redesign to become the Abilene Club, a men’s social club for Abilene businessmen. This group was a precursor to the Abilene Area Chamber of Commerce. Years later, the building was redesigned to return it to its original state, as it appears now.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Photographs of the Jeffcoat Museum's Current Exhibit on Abilene Architecture

City on the Plains: A Look at Abilene Architecture is on exhibit now at the Jeffcoat Photography Studio Museum.

A look at Abilene circa 1900.

The Hotel Sunflower in its heyday.

Several buildings are featured in the exhibit.

Photographs of Abilene High School.

Photographs of the Vacu-Blast Dome.

Several photographs of Abilene buildings and an Abilene map from 1908.

Can from Abilene's Belle Springs Creamery.

Photographs and artifacts representing many of Abilene's former businesses.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Thoughts on the 2011 Kansas Museums Association Conference

October 26 through 28 marked this year’s Kansas Museums Association Conference, and I was lucky enough to go (thanks to my museum sending me).  The KMA Conference is an annual event for Kansas museum professionals to network and learn how to improve the institutions we work in.  This year’s event was spectacular fun, and a great educational opportunity. 

The conference was held in Olathe this year and featured a great pre-conference workshop on Making Collections Meaningful.  So often in museums, we have many fantastic artifacts, but do not use them to their full potential.  To do this requires conducting strong research and proper exhibit strategies; two things that are easier said than done.  It takes time to create a dynamic exhibit and tell an involving story.

A staple of the conference is the museums tour / progressive dinner.  During this time, all of the conference participants are taken to different museums to tour and have refreshments.  During this time, our destinations were the Deaf Cultural Center and William J. Marra Museum, the Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop and Farm, the Ernie Miller Nature Center, and the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art.  All of these were great places to visit, and more information can be found by clicking on their names.  I cannot recommend these places enough.

The bulk of the conference is made up of multiple sessions that each participant attends to learn about different techniques in museums.  Topics include: visitor services, building web collections, exhibit program strategies, and working with volunteers.  Attending sessions are my favorite thing to do at the conference since I am new to the museum profession and still have much to learn.  During these times, I am a vigorous note taker and am often thinking of new ideas to use.  With any luck (and a lot of work), I will hopefully begin working towards a web collection and some unique exhibits for next year.  

Between all of these things, three keynote addresses, and a formal dinner and auction, this year’s KMA Conference was a rousing time and a memorable event.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Spotlight on an Abilene Resident: Lilly Mae Helm

Views of the Past is currently featuring brief biographies of former Abilene residents. These photographs and biographies were recently featured in an exhibit at the Jeffcoat Photography Studio Museum. Even if you are not from Abilene or do not know these people, these stories are invaluable since they paint a portrait of small town life. Both the photograph and text of this post are courtesy of the Jeffcoat Photography Studio Museum. The following was written by Bill Jeffcoat about Lilly Mae Helm:

She was raised in Salina, Kansas. With her husband and some employees, they made a living hauling trash. Their two children were Dorothy and Dick.

This was a happy family; Lilly would do the bill collecting (for their trash service) each month and knew everybody in town.

She would be the first black lady in Abilene to be elected to the Abilene City Commission. She did her job as best as she could, but resigned and did not become Mayor. She was a member of the Catholic faith.

She loved her children and grandchildren, detested being pushed around, and was a fighter to protect what she felt was her right to do what she pleased. I think it is fair to say that she was a remarkable, strong willed lady.