Jun 02, 2023

🎙 Ellis County Historical Society summer exhibit ushers in expanded hours

Posted Jun 02, 2023 11:01 AM
Photo by James Bell/Hays Post
Photo by James Bell/Hays Post

By JAMES BELL
Hays Post

As work continues inside the home of the Ellis County Historical Society, 100 W. Seventh, the group will give visitors an opportunity to see two exhibits for free during extended summer hours.

Executive Director Amanda Rupp said she is very excited to have the museum open to the public seven days a week.

“We are going to be usually open almost every day, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and then even on Thursdays, we're going to be open until 7 p.m.," Rupp said. “If you'd like to come to do some research and you work during the day, [you can] come to visit us during the evening hours. We're even going to be open Saturdays and Sundays. Sundays, we will be from 1 to 5 p.m.”

The extended hours are thanks, in part, to additional staff, including Patty Nicholas, she said.

I was able to hire a part-time archivist assistant, and she has been putting those into our new Past Perfect system,” Rupp said. “So now, if you come down, and you want to look up some family history, she's going to be able to assist you in going through the things that we have in archives.”

She said Court Docket books being entered now – dating back to the 1860-70s – are particularly noteworthy.

The "Notorious" exhibition is open now at the Ellis County Historical Society. Photo by James Bell/Hays Post.
The "Notorious" exhibition is open now at the Ellis County Historical Society. Photo by James Bell/Hays Post.

“All written in hand, that nice calligraphy, they are docket books about notices to appear or criminal actions, they vary from the city of Hays to other townships in the county,” Rupp said. “Some of them are pretty interesting to read if you can read the calligraphy, but she's going to put those in our system so that you don't have to thumb through them all by hand.”

Nicholas has a history with the Fort Hays State University Forsyth Library, the Hays Public Library and Historic Fort Hays, Rupp said.

“She's really in her element,” Rupp said. "She knows archives in and out and how to put those systems into order so that they can be useful to other people. I'm excited about having her ...”

Now that the society has been working on the archives, they plan to start going through artifacts that will be put into a storage area to accommodate work on the upstairs of the building.

Work on a disabled-accessible bathroom is near completion, and work on an accessible entrance is expected later this year.

“Hopefully, mid-fall, I think, is when they can get there with their crews,” Rupp said. “So yeah, we just keep on moving. You blink your eyes. You're going to miss it.”

Photo by James Bell/Hays Post
Photo by James Bell/Hays Post

That work is being funded in part with a Heritage Trust Fund Grant awarded to the society from the Kansas State Historic Society.

HVAC replacement is also expected to begin this year.

Two area students also will serve the society as interns during the summer, along with their four staff members. The society will utilize community volunteers during work nights every second Tuesday of the month from 6 to 8 p.m.

“One of them is returning from last year, and she was a senior this year at Fort Hays State,” Rupp said. “Another one is a high school student here through Hays. They both come to us through the Next Generation Roundup for Youth programs.”

Photo by James Bell/Hays Post
Photo by James Bell/Hays Post

While the new staff acclimates to their positions and repair work is underway, the society will host two exhibitions over the summer, including a traveling exhibit from Salina’s Smoky Hill Museum.

“It is supposed to be about the notorious – I don't want to say outlaws – notorious people of the plains in the Wild West era of this area,” Rupp said.

The Sternberg Firearms Collection will again be on display, with some additions to last summer’s exhibition.

Photo by James Bell/Hays Post
Photo by James Bell/Hays Post

“The Sternberg Firearms Collection got so much attention last summer that we have decided to keep it up,” Rupp said. “It had been in storage for so long, why not keep showing it around?”

The society’s outbuildings will be available to view as well.

Photo by James Bell/Hays Post
Photo by James Bell/Hays Post

The summer exhibitions are free to view.

“We want to get the excitement going for our community and see what we have to offer, so please come down and visit us,” Rupp said. “Even if you only have 30 minutes and you want to get the kids out of the house for a minute.”