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“K is for Kansas” wins national history award

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Exhibit to stay at Kauffman Museum until next June

NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Bethel College’s Kauffman Museum’s traveling exhibit “K is for Kansas” keeps racking up the awards.

The latest is the Award of Merit from the Nashville, Tenn.-based American Association for State and Local History. The Award of Merit, AASLH’s highest award, is part of the organization’s Leadership in History Awards program, now in its 61st year.

South central Kansas residents will have a whole year to enjoy “K is for Kansas” – after visiting the Coffey County Historical Museum in Burlington during the spring and the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum this summer, the exhibit comes back to Kauffman Museum on July 30, where it will remain until June 3, 2007.

The exhibit’s latest national award is part of a program that the AASLH initiated in 1945 to establish and encourage standards of excellence in the collection, preservation and interpretation of state and local history throughout the United States. The 2006 awards went to 84 organizations and individuals across the country, and will be presented at a Sept. 16 banquet during the AASLH annual meeting in Phoenix. Chuck Regier, curator of exhibits, will accept the award on behalf of Kauffman Museum.

“K is for Kansas” uses large alphabet blocks from A to Z to help visitors explore the state’s history, geography, flora, fauna, arts, science and culture. The words chosen for each letter of the alphabet include names of animals, people, places, products and ideas (such as “F is for Free State”) that depict some aspect of Kansas.

“‘K is for Kansas’ is just plain fun,” says Andi Schmidt Andres, Kauffman Museum curator of education. “We offer family packs with activities that engage all ages, and special tours for schoolchildren that meet state curriculum standards.”

“The Kauffman Museum staff definitely reached [the] goal of creating an exhibit accessible to all ages,” said Mindi Love, director of the Johnson County Museum of History in Shawnee, which hosted “K is for Kansas” from Nov. 19, 2005-Feb. 12, 2006. “The broad, interdisciplinary content connected with people with diverse interests – history, culture, art, science and the natural environment – while providing a sense of connection to the state as a whole.”

“‘K is for Kansas’ was a high-quality traveling exhibition with a much-needed Kansas history element applicable to any region in Kansas, any age level and all families who visited,” added Kim Legleiter, executive director of the Stauth Memorial Museum in Montezuma, where “K is for Kansas” spent time in 2005.

Robert Keckheisen, director of the Museum Division of the Kansas State Historical Society, said, “I found ‘K is for Kansas’ to be a very entertaining and effective way to engage visitors in thinking and talking about what makes Kansas Kansas.

“It is a hallmark of an effective exhibit that I stayed much longer that I had anticipated,” he added, “although that may have been partly due to the fact that I refused to leave until I successfully put the miniature springboard basketball into the peach basket in ‘N is for Naismith.’”

Since ‘K is for Kansas’ first opened more than four years ago, it has won several state, regional and national awards. Among these are the Kansas Museums Association Award for Excellence; the Mountain-Plains Museums Association’s Excellence in Publication Award (for the exhibit flyer); and first prize in the American Association of Museums (AAM) Museum Publications Design competition (supplemental materials category, museums with an annual budget under $500,000).

Kauffman Museum is located on the Bethel College campus at Main and 27th Streets in North Newton. Museum hours are 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, and 1:30-4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The museum is closed on Mondays and holidays. Admission to “K is for Kansas,” which includes admission to the permanent exhibits “Of Land and People” and “Mirror of the Martyrs” as well, is $3 for adults and $1.50 for children ages 6-16. More information is available by calling the museum at (316) 283-1612 or visiting its website.

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and has been named a Top Tier college by U.S. News & World Report every year since 1998. For more information, see the Bethel web site at www.bethelks.edu.

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