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Kauffman Museum receives inaugural Technology Award

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Bethel College’s Kauffman Museum is the first winner of a newly established award from the Mountain-Plains Museums Association (MPMA)

MPMA chose the museum to receive its inaugural Technology Award, given for a multimedia project done by a museum with an institutional budget under $250,000 annually. MPMA is a regional museum association, established in 1953, that provides services to museum professionals in Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming.

MPMA president Rick Young of Fort Caspar Museum in Wyoming presented the Technology Award to Chuck Regier, Kauffman Museum curator of exhibits, at the MPMA annual meeting in Cheyenne, Wyo., Oct. 8. Kauffman Museum received the award for its StoryTablet, a system designed by the museum’s exhibit team to deliver audio programs to museum visitors.

Joel Gaeddert, then Kauffman Museum assistant curator of exhibits and now principal at Flint Hills Design in North Newton, initiated the StoryTablet project in 2006. A grant from the Fransen Family Foundation supported the project, which expanded interpretation of Kauffman Museum’s permanent exhibit “Of Land and People” through development of a low-cost system based on the Apple iPod®.

Using the iPod® “Notes Only” mode, Gaeddert programmed interpretive recordings and visual images. Regier designed a custom-built wooden housing with embedded speakers that eliminate headphone sanitation problems and encourage small groups to listen together (compared to headphone systems that promote individual isolation).

David Kennedy, curator at the Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center in Enid, Okla., and MPMA technology judge, said of the StoryTablet, “One of the major issues of technology in museums is that it is either so cumbersome that no one wishes to use it or it is so small that it can easily walk away. The StoryTablet solves both of these issues by melding new technology with a comfortable style, creating a usable device that is neither too big nor too small.”

The StoryTablet concept has taken Kauffman Museum in an entrepreneurial direction. Museum staff have created StoryTablets for the Van of Enchantment (a mobile museum exhibition in New Mexico) and Mid-America Arts Alliance (for two NEH on the Road traveling exhibitions). StoryTablets are being custom produced and made available to other institutions in collaboration with Flint Hills Design (see ).

Other Kansas museums receiving 2009 MPMA awards were the Ulrich Museum of Art at Wichita State University, for its museum general information brochure, and the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas in the “online presence” category for its Web/database integration.

Kauffman Museum, located on the Bethel College campus at 27th and North Main Streets in North Newton, is open 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tues.-Fri., and 1:30-4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; closed Mondays and major holidays. Admission to the museum, which also includes admission to the permanent exhibits “Of Land and People,” “Mirror of the Martyrs” and “Mennonite Immigrant Furniture,” is $4 for adults, $2 for children ages 6-16, and free to Kauffman Museum members and children under 6. For more information, call the museum at 316-283-1612 or visit its Web site,

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