All Franklin County residents are part of history, Diana Staresnic-Deane, executive director of the Franklin County Historical Society (FCHS), said.
She was the guest speaker at the First Friday Forum at Neosho County Community College, 900 E. Logan St., Ottawa. Staresnic-Deane explained the process of preserving history, why it is preserved, the cost of preserving the artifacts and how the public can become engaged in that history.
“Every person that lives in Franklin County is part of the Franklin County story,” she said. “I want them to feel that connection whether it is through research of your house, neighborhood, business or just coming to understand what happened here.”
She said the historical society has catalogued 64,798 pieces of history and they are all located at the Franklin County Research & Record Center, 1124 W. Seventh St. Terrace, Ottawa; Old Depot Museum, 135 W. Tecumseh St., Ottawa, and at the Dietrich Cabin, located in City Park, Fifth and Main, Ottawa.
“We have two really serious challenges we are facing: cost of supplies and the other is space,” Staresnic-Deane said. “Archival materials that are used to take care of things are very expensive. Any paper products made after the Civil War have a really high acid content. You are trying to protect everything in our collection from deteriorating as much as possible. So far, there is no way to stop the deteriorating process, What we are trying to do is slow it down. We want these things to be available for generations long after we’re gone.”
She displayed a sample collection of management materials used to preserve the archives such as specialised boxes, folders, tape and sleeves. She said the cost for the relatively small sample was $740.
The space problem exists because history continues to grow, Staresnic-Deane said.
“We have to figure out how we are going to store these things,” she said. “Also how to keep track of them. What we strive to do is every single object gets a number and a location. We should be able to find everything whenever we need to.”
She said there are certain criteria a historical artifact must meet to be accepted to their collection.
“Our driving mission is to preserve, present and promote the history of Franklin County, Kansas,” Staresnic-Deane said. “What is that Franklin County connection? Was is made here or used here? Everything we try to bring into our collection should have a local connection.”
Another question is, “Do we already have one?” she said.
“How many examples of Victorian shoes do we need, or how many examples of farm tools do we need that are identical?” she said. “We would love to take them all.”
The FCHS also asks, “Is the historical piece in displayable condition?”
“We can’t display a lot of things because they would disintegrate really fast,” she said. “Paper and textiles are really susceptible to light. We can only display them sporadically. We would like for them to be in as good of condition as possible.”
An example of a space eater at museums and historical societies are quilts, she said. She added quilts need to be stored flat on the floor.
“That is a problem for us,” she said. “How many quilts can we take? They are expensive to store, a box costs $60 to &70. Quilts will be an interesting problem for historical societies all over the country because up to this century they quilted what they needed to keep warm. Now people are hobby quilters.”
She said there are exceptions to these rules, especially if the artifact is important historically to Franklin County.
Staresnic-Deane said an item does not have to be old to be considered part of their collection.
“We are collecting things that happen today,” she said. “It might not be a big deal at the moment, but in 100 years, it will be historic. We keep collecting photos.”
Staresnic-Deane said FCHS has 15,615 objects, 31,623 photos, 15,586 archives and nearly 2,000 items in the library, which makes up the nearly 65,000 items.
The executive director said the historical society is looking to grow the promotion part of its mission.
“For the past 20 years, we have worked really hard on the preserve part of our mission,” she said. “We have worked on how we handle our materials and improving our cataloging. We worked professionalizing what we do in meeting museum best practices. Now we really are poised to work on the promoting part of our history. All of this stuff does not mean much unless somehow you can engage with it. You use it to better understand your own story, use it to spark an interest in local history.”
She said the historical staff is available to help the public research history such as their family tree. She said they are working on improving their online information.
“We know there are people that are looking for information and maybe be won’t be able to visit us,” Staresnic-Deane said.