The Ladies of the Grand Old Republic are helping to restore a GAR commissioned statue, “The Rifleman,” in the Barton County Courthouse Square. But Beverly Komarek, executive director of the Barton County Historical Society, wonders who will step up next time.
“We need more conservators,” Komarek said. When a piece of public art goes up, there needs to be a plan for its ongoing care.
Earlier this year, restoration was done on the B-29 memorial at the Great Bend Municipal Airport. There was money set aside from the $350,000 raised to create this monument, but doing all of the necessary work would have drained the fund. The City of Great Bend agreed to split the bill, and in the process learn more about annual maintenance.
The plaques that accompany memorial art also need to be maintained. Those at the B-29 memorial had become unreadable in a just a decade.
We were also reminded of the importance of preservation when the old opera house was razed.
It’s OK – in fact, it’s great – for historic landmarks to show their age. One doesn’t restore a beautiful antique by stripping away all of its character and painting over it. But if a piece is not maintained, that reflects poorly on its caretaker. In the case of historic landmarks, neglect does a disservice to those who commissioned the work, and the message they intended.
The Barton County Historical Society hopes to bring people together who will create a list our historic treasures and perhaps make note of the care they need in the coming years. It is possible we will learn something about our heritage in the process.