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Santa Fe Trail Center showcases renovation
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The Santa Fe Trail Center Museum features a wide variety of artifacts and displays devoted to the Santa Fe Trail. A traveling exhibit, Imprinting the West: Manifest Destiny, Real and Imagined, is featured during the Memorial Day weekend. - photo by JIM MISUNAS Great Bend Tribune


LARNED — Besides a featured exhibit, the Santa Fe Trail Center Museum is showcasing recent renovation work that has been spearheaded by the museum’s “Go the Distance on the Trail,” fund drive.
“It’s important to improve our interpretation about the trail and the Plains Indians,” said Becca Hiller, Santa Fe Trail Center Museum director. “We’re always finding out more accurate information. We want to expand that and make our exhibit panels more engaging. We’re making the text panels with more images, more eye-catching and easier to read. We’re excited how new everything looks every day.”
The Fort Larned Historical Society board featuring Tom Seltmann, president; Bryon Griffin, vice president; Janice Spears, treasurer; and Amy Froetschner, secretary, has supervised the renovation progress since the drive started in 2011.
The “Go the Distance on the Trail,” fund drive started in 2011 and was originally targeted for the east gallery renovation, which originally was meant to be a temporary installation in that gallery. New donations will also be used for the east gallery renovation.
“We’ve been working really hard to raise the funds to do the renovation work,” Hiller said.
“Martin, Martin Design from Dallas, Texas is working with us,” Hiller said. “Marty Martin has a connection to Larned. He married Georgia, the daughter of Deanne and Don Burnett. We’ve been fortunate to have such a wonderful partner. He was been a wonderful resource working on this design. He’s been up here four times since he started. We’re in constant contact with him via email.”
Bev Howell, who served as interim director for the second half of 2014, has done a lot of the design work.
One of the primary changes has been the installation of LED lighting, which is helpful for museum venues.
“We’ve replaced all of our lighting in the main museum building with LED track lighting that is motion-activated. It’s economically positive, but it’s also really good for the artifacts because they are exposed to less light. UV light and the sun can wash out colors in certain types of artifacts. It’s a standard practice to minimize light.”
Another change planned is removal of a Mexican trader exhibit for a planned video near the entrance. The lobby has often displayed temporary exhibits.
“We’ve had our Mexican trader exhibit in the lobby of the Santa Fe Trail Museum, but he really did not belong there,” Hiller said. “The story about the trail starts with the Plains Indians, who were here before the trail. We’ve talk about the wildlife and the trappers. Then, you’d get back to the trail again when we hit our south gallery. We’ve moved him out of the lobby. We plan to install a brief video that introduces the Santa Fe Trail Museum to visitors.”
Doug Springer, a long-time volunteer at the museum, has put together a three-dimensional mule and has done crafted most of the woodwork.
“We are redoing the Mexican exhibit,” Hiller said. “We are building a hut and will build a three-dimensional mule. We will pack the mule the way the Mexican traders packed their mule on the trail. We’d like to develop a hands-on activity for school-age children where they would learn to pack their mule for commerce. He’s helped develop our interpretive panel holders.
Other changes have involved painting in our east and west galleries. A courtyard has been cleared from overgrowth so visitors can have a nice view.
Hiller is involved in redoing interpretive panels to better improve the educational process for the displays.
“We’ve developing prototypes for information panels to redo all of our interpretation,” she said. “We’ve doing all of this simultaneously. I’m working on the language in the interpretive panels.”