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Claflin to open new and improved history museum
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Brad Miller, member of Friends of the Museum, remembers the good old days of Claflin. Memorial Day weekend is when the new Claflin History Museum will be open to the public. The new self-guided museum will be the latest entity to utilize Claflins school building, closed after consolidation. - photo by VERONICA COONS, Great Bend Tribune

Five years ago, Claflin, a northern Barton County city, received a couple blows.  First, it’s elementary school was closed when the district consolidated with Bushton, Holyrood, and Wilson.  Second, its history museum had to close unexpectedly when the building, one of Claflin’s original structures, had severe structural problems.  
“One day, we arrived to find the upstairs had become the downstairs,” said Brad Miller,  a member of the city’s historical museum board.  
Today, that school building has become a tremendous asset to the community, one that has provided a solution to the problem of where to relocate the museum to.  And soon, the public will get a chance to revisit history.  When Claflin celebrates Memorial Day weekend with the Claflin Jubilee, parade, and class reunions, visitors will get their first glimpse at the new and improved history museum, located on the second floor at the south end of the former school on the north end of Main Street.  
Miller’s excitement is palpable.  The Friends of the Museum have been working to create a family friendly space that will allow visitors to enjoy a self-guided tour that includes the sights and sounds of Claflin through the ages.  Donations will go towards the purchase of a chair lift to the museum level to be installed at a later date, he said.  It’s the final phase of the debt-free museum, and the Friends of the Museum plan to raise funds at upcoming events.
Five spaces filled with photos, stories, and memorabilia include a room dedicated to Claflin’s Wildcats, the former mascot of the high school which is now the home of the Oilers.  Another room takes visitors on a trip through the history of entertainment, from pianos to radios to television.  A space dedicated to Dr. Jury, who served the people of Claflin over a 60-year career will once again be on display.  Jury is credited with helping birth 2,000 babies over his career, Miller said.
On the more macabre side, some of those children didn’t survive past their first few years, especially in the early part of the last century.  In the space devoted to home, a pint-sized coffin is nestled inconspicuously among the items found in a child’s bedroom.   
In the records room, there are newspapers, clippings, photos, and an impressive display of old typewriters and cameras, mostly used by reporters and photographers at the weekly newspaper, the Claflin Clarion.  
Miller is pleased the city agreed to allow the museum to locate in the space.  When it had to shut its doors and put the collection into storage, the board approached the Barton County Historical Museum to see if the collection could be utilized there.  While the Barton County board was willing to take the collection, they were up-front about what would happen.  
“Most of the collection would be put into storage, and brought out from time to time, “ he said.  “We understood, but we decided to hold out for our own space instead.  This museum offers a great representation of Claflin and other northern Barton County towns, and its important to us to have it showcased in this way.”
In recent years, the city has made space available in the building, where a wellness center is available to members 24-hours a day, yoga and tai-chi classes are taught, and practice space for team sports as well as a community room for events is available.  
“Instead of letting the building become a blight to our community, its become a blessing,” Miller said.  And that’s more history in the making.