The Barton County Historical Museum and Village is a great place to celebrate Earth Day from the perspective of pioneers at the crossroads of America, says Beverly Komarek, executive director of the Historical Society.
Today’s international observance of Earth Day focuses on modern environmentalism, but Barton County residents and guests can also see how people experienced the land decades before the first Earth Day in 1970.
Frank Robl of Ellinwood, for example, banded birds at Cheyenne Bottoms in the 1930s, before the area was a protected wildlife refuge. In 1988, Cheyenne Bottoms was designated a Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. Information about Robl can be found at the museum, and four Ramsar posters are on display.
The “Stories Along the Central Flyway” display includes some woodcarvings of birds found at Cheyenne Bottoms. The carvings are by Great Bend artist Robert Button, who also has some native American Indian artifacts on loan to the museum.
Dioramas and archaeological artifacts illustrate the native American culture of the region.
Kansans were also using renewable energy long before 1970. The “People of the Wind” exhibit features a Wincharger-brand wind-powered electric generator from the 1930s. With its 6-foot wooden blade, it could recharge a set of batteries to power a Zenith farm radio and a reading lamp.
“Our role has been to create and share a grassroots historical context, offer access to original artifacts and tell the stories of the land and people with a distinctively local voice,” Komarek said. “This Earth Day, visitors can experience the natural landscape from the prospective of westward pioneers. It’s important to understand their experience as we chart our course ahead.”
The Barton County Historical Society and Village is located on South U.S. 281 at the Arkansas River bridge in Great Bend. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 1-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.