On April 7, members from SCALA, the Student Chapter of the Society of American Archivists (SCSAA), and the Society of Public Historians from ESU met for a tour of the Lyon County History Center (LCHC) in their new downtown location. Curator Lisa Soller directed the tour and explained some of the elements of their move and the process of setting up a museum. LCHC moved from the Carnegie library on Sixth Avenue to a store front on Commercial Street in 2016. Prior to the move, the LCHC Archives were located in a separate building down the street from Carnegie library. In their new location, they have brought their archives, research area, and exhibit space all under one roof with an additional area available to rent out for events in the community.
The storefront began its life as a Montgomery Ward Warehouse and still has elements of the warehouse in the design. The third floor event space was the original storeroom so they have kept the exposed brick walls and rough wood floor to give a rustic look to the event space. As one of the tallest buildings in downtown Emporia, the view from the third floor is magnificent and provides a scenic backdrop for local activities.
The first floor is primarily archives and research area. They are still in the process of moving items from their former location – a task I do not envy them at all! The center has three staff members and myriad of volunteers whose primary goals consist of organizing the archives into something that resembles a proper collection. Most of the items are safe enough for the time being, but staff and volunteers are tirelessly working to process the collections into more permanent housing.
The second floor houses the main exhibit space. County museums are notorious for having several versions of the same object, and I appreciate the staff’s efforts to pare down their collection so they no longer have 15 irons, 10 butter churns, etc. The exhibit area is well designed and follows the history of Lyon County from its natural landscape to the first Native American inhabitants to the history of Veteran’s Day (which was founded in Emporia, FYI). The highlight of the tour was a room dedicated to original World War I propaganda posters. Ms. Soller explained how she knew some propaganda posters existed in the collection, but had no idea how many were present until the move. With Emporia’s tie in to Veteran’s Day and the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entrance into World War I this year, it seemed an appropriate time to properly display the posters.
Overall, the tour was highly informative both about the history of Lyon County and the trials and tribulations of moving and setting up a museum. I highly encourage you to visit the LCHC whenever you’re in Emporia! For more information on their hours and what to expect during your visit, go to explorelyoncounty.org