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Santa Fe Trail Center Museum a hidden gem
History is on display
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The Santa Fe Trail Center Museum tells the story of the Santa Fe Trail route and explorers, trappers and traders that goes back to the time of the American Indians in Kansas. - photo by JIM MISUNAS Great Bend Tribune


LARNED — The creation of the Santa Fe Route started with the explorers, trappers, and traders along with the American Indians. The present Santa Fe Trail Center Museum tells the civilian story while the fort gives the military history. The civilian story blends into the settlement era long after the fort’s military history.
Today, many families in Pawnee and surrounding counties have deep roots going back to the original settlers. The Santa Fe Trail Center Museum is dedicated to preserving this complex, dual story line.
The artifacts from so long ago have been gathered for future generations to see so that they can understand the history of these early residents. The museum possesses thousands of three dimensional items and thousands more photographs and paper records.
Every single item has been donated by families who value their heritage. And donations continue flood in yearly.
In today’s world, even in rural Kansas, many do not make the effort to step back and look at the past. What better way to teach the younger generation to be appreciative and grateful for its lifestyle.
There are valuable life lessons to be learned by understanding the importance of having goals, persevering hardships and working hard.
The museum is a non-profit organization owned by the members of the Fort Larned Historical Society, and operated by a board of volunteer members.
 It relies on contributions and membership fees. Several levels of membership are offered from individual starting at $30. And unfortunately, the membership base and the ensuing financial support is shrinking.
The museum is funded by contributions, memberships and attendance. School group attendance has diminished due to funding problems, and the original Jordaan Foundation funds have dried up.
It’s a sign of the times.
The museum is staffed by two full-time and two half-time employees. Salaries are minimal and there are no benefits. Even volunteers are fewer. But hope and a positive attitude keeps the workers on task.
The complex includes nine buildings, 10 acres, and thousands of artifacts to care for. The volunteers and small staff loves history, or the mission would cease to exist.
The Tired Iron Show in October is a family event, and a multi-faceted educational opportunity for today’s children to learn about the progression of agriculture and their heritage in this part of the country.
May 2 was the Third Annual Family Kite Fly event. Free kite kits are given to the youngsters so that they can learn to fly a kite. Attendees bring their own kites or buy from a vendor on the grounds. There is always a kite history lesson, competition, games, and prizes, free popcorn, and of course, a tour of the museum grounds.
The Sizzlin Summer Shindig in August focuses on children in the grade school level .Such events as face painting, crafts, games, races, live animals, and a free hot dog lunch are only some of the offerings.
Bev Howell, volunteer and member of the board, remarked, “This museum is a treasure that the citizenry needs to consider. I’m sure that the locals forget about it. I might add that we need them!”
Howell said there are several ways to keep the museum’s doors open.
• Become a historical society member.
• Make a donation to the fund drive.
• Attend the special events.
• Bring visiting friends or family to the museum.
• Volunteer to help with an event or a long-term project
• Invite others to be involved.
For information call 620-285-2054 or go to the website: and be a friend of the museum on Facebook.