Our Western Heritage

Our Western Heritage
Front Street, Dodge City, circa 1879

Friday, March 27, 2009

Missing museum addendum: submitted more than once

Oddly, of all the submitted thoughts, plans, suggestions to Heberling Associates, Inc., the Dodge City Master Tourism Plan consultants -- this one is missing in the Master Tourism Plan final copy (although the draft was not seen by the public for about three months?).

Although the need for a Ford County History Museum is listed in about eight places, the only direct statement about this plan is --
If the Ford County Historical Society is interested in adding a county museum, it would be wise to do a feasibility study and/or a long-range plan to determine appropriate funding strategies, location, and possible partners or cooperative ventures.

Note that no other addendum or section -- from a $18 million agro center to a multi-million dollar new Kansas Heritage Center -- lists this requirement for a feasibility study, nor does this statement stand with the many places in the master tourism study that call for a new museum. (Although the study does echo in many, many places my early suggestions to Heberling Associates -- in fact, every point shows up except the big one -- a plan for a Ford County History Museum. Gee, wish we had seen the draft of the plan.)

Museums in Dodge City & Ford County, Kansas

by George Laughead Jr.

Faced with major archives unseen, major donations ungiven, dropping tourism numbers, high levels of needed capital improvements in current facilities, and on-going operating costs, et al -- I wanted to think out loud (or out web, in this case) about what we might do to work together, solve major problems of finance and support, and grow back to having world-class Western Heritage archive and museum.

For tourism, this would work with the world class dirt race track, softball fields, and the Santa Fe Depot, truly world class of its type. For those that love movies and theatres, the Dodge Theater again fits into that level, and for house museum or Victorian house fans, the Mueller-Schmidt House represents much more than its true Old West heritage, and cattleman builder. Windthorst Church is another venue becoming known around the country, thanks to their work and PBS television. And Fort Dodge is still a living Old West fort. The bridle collection and the DC Roundup Rodeo are both on this list. We start with assets.

Why this matters -- local views are not in line with world interest in the Old West

It has become clear to me in the last few years that local views of the importance of our place in frontier, pioneer, Old West and American West history are not in line with the on-going and large interest that the rest of the world has in our history.

Among the millions of users each year on web sites that I'm involved with, most of the hits continue to be for Old West history. I get tens of thousands of users a month for sites related directly to Dodge City and Ford County, including the WWW-VL: American West history, Old West Kansas, and Dodge City history. There is no lack of interest, even if local viewpoints are not focused on this.


Fact: Ford County and Dodge City government giving to museums, et al, has been on an emergency basis, or in the case of the Mueller-Schmidt House Museum, a minimum amount to keep the facility open. We must see the combination of Why Not Dodge! money, county and city support, USD support, possible casino funds, coordination with CVB funds, and grants as necessary for the long term growth and protection of our history.


Fact: Among the collections owned by Boot Hill Museum, the Kansas Heritage Center, the Ford County Historical Society, Trail of Fame Inc., and others, we have a world class pioneer Old West, American West and Great Plains archive potential.

The Ford County Historical Society alone owns much, from business records and hand written notes of Dodge City founder, Robert Wright, to Josephine Earp's journals and an original carbon of Wyatt Earp and John Flood's book, to Dr. C. Robert Haywood's complete history library and research files (FCHS Haywood Collection -- on loan to the Kansas Heritage Center) and the Betty Braddock FCHS Photograph Collection -- the list of important items goes on and on.

The possible combining of all these into one modern facility under the staff of Kansas Heritage (protecting each group's ownership), would make us one of the stops necessary for research for magazine articles, books or movies on almost any topic of the American West, and especially on the Wild West of Dodge City and Southwest Kansas. It would protect all of these for the future.

Boot Hill Museum

Fact: Cost of both being an entertainment/retail tourist attraction and being an archive/museum is a major double burden. Possibility of lifting some of that cost and responsibility may be one answer to allowing Boot Hill to become more focused on different elements of the tourism industry, retail, entertainment, events. Possibilities might include the funding of the archive and curator costs through other funds than those raised by Boot Hill Museum Inc. I suggest that any decision has to keep Boot Hill Museum Inc. clearly involved and of primary importance.

World-class exhibitions

Fact: Drawing all the most important artifacts into one modern designed small museum exhibition area would allow the best presentation of unique historical items, from Old West Wyatt Earp related artifacts to actual coverage of major events from Dust Bowl to hot rods, the WWII air base to the Great Arkansas River Flood, the Santa Fe Depot and Mexican Village -- events of high interest to the world but not covered in any local museum. (And, I believe, still all part of the American West, the Great Plains, the Wild West.)

Future artifact donations

Fact: Donors will open up gates of giving when the right modern and protect exhibition space is available. The donation of the most famous gun in the Old West is on hold, due to the lack of modern secure exhibit space. The Kansas State Historical Society has suggested that their world-class exhibits could come to Dodge City for viewing, given the right space. Time is an issue, too. Some major possible donors are aging, and might give their donation to other states and museums.

Submitted to Heberling Associates Inc., 2007

Dodge City/Ford County, KS, Master Tourism Plan On-line

Dodge City/Ford County Tourism Plan: Major museum section

That we have a multi-hundred thousand dollar visitor center now is one point -- but that a new Kansas Heritage Center/Ford County History Museum is needed is stated about eight places in the study -- but the submitted suggestion for an actual Ford County History Museums seems missing from the study -- although proposed to Heberling Associates Inc. by several groups involved:

New Dodge City Visitor Center with exhibits

Explore the feasibility of the creation of a Dodge City-Ford County Visitor Center in the downtown cultural corridor. The center, which could share a facility with the expanded Kansas Heritage Center and/or a proposed Ford County Museum, would orient tourists to Dodge City, Ford County, and Southwest Kansas sites and experiences through front-line visitor services as well as interactive orientation kiosks and exhibits describing the region’s history and its cultural, arts, recreational, and environmental sites and attractions.

Use of empty buildings in Dodge City for exhibits

Initiate an assessment, including a market survey, of the Robinson’s complex, or a portion thereof (perhaps removing the 20th century one-story additions), for possible adaptive reuse as a heritage and arts center in the downtown cultural corridor. Uses could include artists’ studio rental space, studio space for workshops and classes (possibly including homes for various kinds of artists’ guilds), opportunities for showcasing large exhibits or exhibits of large pieces, meeting rooms, and a Ford County History Center with a collections storage area.

Use of Ford County Government Center for exhibits

The Roundup could also develop an interpretive exhibit—or series of exhibits—on its own interesting history, either in conjunction with the hall of fame or in another location, such as the lobby of the County Government Center, a Dodge City/Ford County Visitors Center, the Boot Hill Casino and Resort (or all of the above).

New Kansas Heritage Center for exhibits

USD 443 representatives should authorize a feasibility study for the development of an expanded Kansas Heritage Center and determine the best location for such a facility.

Possible sites include the former T.M. Deal Lumber Company at Third and Spruce, the old City Hall and parking lot property on top of Boot Hill between Third and Fifth Avenues on Spruce, the former Robinson’s furniture store, casino land west of town, and the Roundup Rodeo-Fairgrounds neighborhood south of downtown. There has been general agreement thus far that one of the downtown locations would be the most appropriate. Butler National has already generously donated the services of a talented architect who has prepared a very preliminary design concept and floor plan for a new KHC.

The study should also determine whether a new KHC should share a complex or be linked architecturally to a related or complementary organization’s facility, such as a Dodge City-Ford County visitors center, a Ford County Historical Society, the Genealogical Society Library, and/or a joint archival research center made up of the two-dimensional collections perhaps from the KHC, Boot Hill Museum, and County Historical Society.

The Kansas Heritage Center could provide expanded facilities for its existing educational and research service operations as well as gallery space for traveling and temporary exhibits from large to small and on all topics relevant to the history, cultural heritage, environment, and lifeways of the High Plains. It could also include spaces for public meetings and events. The KHC should avoid the temptation to become a museum that collects three-dimensional artifacts.

No actual museum in the study:

But, alas, the submitted and discussed material on an actual modern secure history museum is just not in the Dodge City Tourism Master Plan at all? Could it have been lost by Heberling Associates? Edited out?

Dodge City/Ford County, KS, Master Tourism Plan On-line

Dodge City/Ford County Master Tourism Plan: how to measure success

Here's the check list that Heberling Associates Inc. say should be used to measure the success of the new Dodge City/Ford County Master Tourism Plan, the new arts & tourism director position and the community putting it all into action.

􀁸 Annual increase in visitation and attendance at events.
􀁸 Broader visitor demographics.
􀁸 Expanded volunteer base.
􀁸 New events and programs.
􀁸 Expanded community participation and support.
􀁸 Expanded casino attendance.
􀁸 Increased corporate, agency, and attraction partnerships and collaborations.
􀁸 Implementation and expansion of cross-marketing between Boot Hill Casino and
Resort and downtown retail and attractions.
􀁸 Expanded donor base.
􀁸 Increased public and private funding.
􀁸 Increased sales and bed tax revenue.
􀁸 Positive and increased gaming revenue.
􀁸 Increased in-kind support for projects and attractions.
􀁸 Increased number of capital projects and infrastructure improvements.
􀁸 New and expanded downtown tourism-related businesses and services.
􀁸 Increased number of tourism-related jobs.
􀁸 More positive visitor feedback.
􀁸 Improvements in visitor/hospitality services.
􀁸 Increased downtown activity.
􀁸 Increase in number of restored and rehabilitated historic buildings.
􀁸 Expanded media coverage.
􀁸 Expanded web presence and feedback.
􀁸 Increased number of positive online comments.
􀁸 Expanded use of appropriate and relevant digital technology and user feedback.

Dodge City/Ford County, KS, Master Tourism Plan On-line

Dodge City/Ford County Master Tourism Plan: $103,000 Answers

Here's the meat of the Heritage Tourism Plan for Dodge City and Ford County, Kansas -- not Heberling Associates, Inc. fault that it reads almost the same as the study done in early 1990s and in about 2004 -- paid for again -- these are obvious points:

􀁸 To recognize tourism in general as a powerful economic development tool for the community and the region.
􀁸 To enhance visitor satisfaction.
􀁸 To integrate tourism into the social and economic life of the region.
􀁸 To enhance history and the arts as opportunities for heritage tourism and economic development.
􀁸 To promote a sustainable High Plains environment as a significant component of a visitor marketing and promotional plan.
􀁸 To effectively promote and market the region’s unique visitor assets.
􀁸 To create lively and educational experiences for visitors of all ages and backgrounds.
􀁸 To enhance the tourism infrastructure.
􀁸 To implement needed wayfinding and informational strategies and an integrated
system of logistical links and connections among visitor venues.
􀁸 To be accessible to a diverse local, national, and global market.
􀁸 To create experiences and the opportunities for discovery about the region and its natural, historic, and cultural setting.

And they add:

A reasonable degree of public funding for attractions in the current economic environment and beyond is a wise investment in regional economic development and an expanded visitor industry.

Dodge City/Ford County, KS, Master Tourism Plan On-line