CHERRYVALE — The museum in Cherryvale recently got a facelift, thanks to volunteer efforts of Textron Aviation interns and employees.
The museum, previously the Bell Telephone office for Cherryvale at 215 E. Fourth St., has a brick exterior, probably supplied from one of the town’s six brickyards.
“The wood porch, the trim and a small addition were all showing wear,” museum board member Mike Wood said.
Board member Carol Staton learned that Textron encourages summer interns to do a project off-site to benefit the community.
Nancy King and Mike Sharp were Textron coordinators and brought eight interns and four employees from the 208 line to Cherryvale, armed with brushes and rollers. The library provided materials.
“The project took parts of two hot days and brightened the exterior just in time for a special reception,” Wood said. “City leaders and business owners were invited to tour the museum’s updated and new exhibits during their lunch hour on Friday, July 19.”
Luke Emmot, general manager of Cherryvale’s G&W Foods, worked with board members to provide box lunches for the guests, some of whom had never visited the museum.
“This is a great opportunity for us and I hope for them as well,” Wood said. “We really do depend a great deal on volunteers. Our board is all volunteers and we look to other people in the community to help us out, especially when it comes to any kind of maintenance, repair, construction. We have a relatively small board, seven people, and none of us has any particular maintenance skills, so we look to others to help with that.
“It looks much better. It had been needing a coat of paint and some scraping. In fact, they even replaced some of the trim boards on the museum. It looks very nice,” Wood said. “Now we just need to find someone who can replace some of the mortar in our bricks. We haven’t been able to find that person yet. I think that skill is not as prevalent as it used to be. We’ve had a couple of people look at it and they said it was going to be long and expensive, so we’ve backed off of it for the time being. We are looking at some ways to increase our funding. So far we’ve been donation all the way, not charging a fee at the door. And we haven’t had memberships yet. Our utilities are about to say to us, ‘You have to find some additional funding.’ So we are looking at that and starting a membership campaign in the next year.”
The Historical Museum of Cherryvale is free and open to the public from 2 to 4 p.m. Sundays. Names and phone numbers of board members are posted at the city offices and on Facebook, so if someone knows ahead of time they want to come visit, they can call and make arrangements for someone to be there.
The museum has new exhibits.
“I think one of the biggest steps forward is one of our board members, Carol Staton, has worked many, many hours inventorying the collection and finding the commonalities of items,” Wood said.
For years, as things were donated, they were added to the museum collection in succession. As Staton began to inventory, she began to find items tied to one another, such as those having to do with the town’s first mayor.
“So we are bringing those together with new labels, telling our story better,” Wood said. “And we have a board member Don Richardson who is a train fanatic.… (He) donated a small scale of Sante Fe Depot in a diorama. He’s added all kinds of train memorabilia, lanterns and tickets and so forth. We’ve had several people just come to see that. Trains played a very important part in Cherryvale. There was an east-west line and a north-south line, so we had two depots and lots of train traffic.”
New things have been added to the Bender exhibit, too.
That’s probably the topic that brings most people to Cherryvale. It is a cold case and an unsolved mystery, so people still like to see the old newspaper clippings, Wood said.
“We took one wall of that room and involved a designer and essentially blew up several of the documents so they are much larger and are kind of an introduction to the whole exhibit. … We have all of the publications that have been done and there are several books and articles. We’re trying to be a central repository for all those things if someone is researching.”
The library premiered the movie “Bender.” The movie’s director was in town and the celebration was big enough that museum directors requested additional space from nearby businesses. A second showing of the movie needed to be scheduled.
“So we had close to 300 people that afternoon for that,” Wood said. “It was a well done film, although they took some liberties and the purists who think they know the Bender story took some exception with that. But we found actually, and that’s what his focus is on the new exhibit, that the 1873 pictures and narrative in Harper’s Magazine were as close to the facts as anything written after that.”
Wood said they hope to expand costumes, not actual Bender artifacts, but costumes and tools from 1871, because that was the year the Benders began their hotel, and it was also when Cherryvale was founded.
“So since we’re coming up in 150-year celebration in a couple of years, we think there is a lot to learn about the prairie and pioneer life associated with the story.”
Board members hope the changes will be a draw for people of all ages.
“I think all museums are hoping they can get younger folks to come more often, and that’s hard,” Wood said. “I didn’t become interested in history until mid-life or late life. People think there’s not much history, and then they come and find out it can be exciting.”
Later this month, Wood said the museum is planning a special exhibit that will feature the works of Cherryvale artists, past and present. More information on that will be announced.