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Museum receives state award of excellence for threshing stone exhibit

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Bethel College’s Kauffman Museum received the Kansas Museums Association’s Award for Excellence at the group’s annual meeting Oct. 18 in Lawrence.

The award is given to institutions that develop creative and engaging projects. Kauffman Museum received it for the project “Threshing Stone: Mennonite Artifact & Icon.”

The exhibit was developed, designed, fabricated and installed by Kauffman Museum staff and employees of Flint Hills Design of North Newton for display Oct. 6, 2012-Jan. 20, 2013, in connection with Bethel College’s 125th anniversary.

It brought together stories of wheat threshing technology and German-Russian Mennonite immigration, and explored how the threshing stone became a symbol of Kansas wheat heritage (and of Bethel College).

“Threshing Stone” represented a “significant partnership between academic and amateur historians,” said Rachel Pannabecker, Kauffman Museum director.

Industrial designer Glen Ediger, North Newton, was guest curator for the exhibit, which also drew extensively on the staff expertise and collections of the Mennonite Library and Archives at Bethel.

The exhibit attracted more than 1,700 visitors who came to view the display or attend one of four special programs planned in conjunction with it, or both. Ediger gave the first program, “Leave No Threshing Stone Unturned,” which was so popular it had to be repeated to accommodate audiences.

One of the major goals of the exhibit, Pannabecker said, was to recognize the celebration of Bethel College’s 125th year in 2012.

“Since 1959, Bethel students being honored for academic achievement have received a ‘Thresher Award’ consisting of a miniature threshing stone on a pedestal. Since 1960, Bethel College sports teams have been known as the Threshers,” Pannabecker said. “Yet members of the campus community were almost wholly ignorant of how this outmoded farm tool became a campus symbol.

“The exhibition and the first and fourth programs solved this goal by presenting a timeline, photographs and memorabilia to interpret symbolic meanings and current rituals.

“The value of our effort to interpret the threshing stone was confirmed when Dr. Perry White, president of Bethel College, requested that portions of the exhibition relating to the place of the threshing stone in Old World and New World contexts be repurposed for a display in Bethel’s Mantz Library lounge, where it currently resides.”

At the Oct. 18 annual meeting, KMA also presented its Technology Award, to the Lawrence Convention & Visitors Bureau in collaboration with Watkins Museum of History and Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area.

“These award recipients are among the best and brightest at Kansas museums,” said KMA President Shannon Hsu of Shawnee Town 1929 Museum in Shawnee. “They represent the innovative and important work taking place in small museums across our state.”

Winners are nominated by the museum community and selected by a committee of peers.

KMA is a statewide organization for museums, historical societies, art galleries, nature centers, zoo, convention and visitor centers and libraries. Its purpose is to promote museums and provide leadership, advocacy and training for everyone interested in Kansas museums. To learn more, visit

Regular Kauffman 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 Mondays and major holidays. Admission to the current special exhibit,“Art that Worked: WPA Art in Newton 1935-1943,” as well as 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 website,, or Facebook page .

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