Maintenance on a building that is more than a century old is no easy task, as Debra Hiebert, director of the Harvey County Historical Museum will attest.

 

Opened in 1904, with an addition built in 1923, the building functioned as a library until 1973, when it was taken over by the museum.

 

"It's only had two owners, that's a plus," Hiebert said.

 

The museum board and Hiebert budget for maintenance expenses, trying to predict as best they can what will need repairs when.

 

"We've got really good supporters and tax credits help out a lot," Hiebert said.

 

From the cement gutters along the roof to the tile in the basement, every part of the building requires care to protect both the history of the structure itself and the artifacts and documents it holds.

 

"Nothing is simple in old buildings," Hiebert said, "especially plumbing and electrical."

 

Over the past decade, improvements have made the museum more energy efficient. Once boarded over, the Harvey County Historical Museum's windows now hold panes of low emission glass, which gives artifacts protection from the sun.

 

"We worked really hard to change that," Hiebert said. "Natural light is better."

 

When it was discovered that there was no insulation in the attic, it was decided that wiring for lights on the second floor would be overhauled prior to having the insulation blown in.

 

"It was a challenge to get it all up and wired before insulation," Hiebert said.

 

Harvey County Historical Museum is now looking to replace the lighting fixtures on its top floor, which holds county archives. The museum is asking its members and other individuals for support of the archival lighting project, which they estimate will cost around $2,500.

 

Instead of the current lighting, which is inset in the room's high ceilings, drop lights holding 150 watt bulbs will be positioned around the room. Open fixtures will direct light downwards so that fading ink and faint handwriting in record books can be seen more easily. Similar to the fixtures on the first floor, they will recall the aesthetic of early 20th century lights.

 

"We found some that go with the style of the building," Hiebert said.

 

Half of the museum's visitors use the research area on the top floor, where they are able to look through records from churches, hospitals, clubs and more.

 

"We have a great railroad collection," Hiebert said.

 

Using maps, microfilm, books, directories and other documents, individuals can research local buildings, family genealogy or other topics. With an index of the museum's research materials listed on its website, research requests can be made by those who are not able to travel to Harvey County. The museum has even received inquiries from people in other countries.

 

Harvey County Historical Museum has also prioritized hosting programs in other locations across the county, providing accessibility for those who cannot travel far or navigate the museum's stairs.

 

Donations for the archival lighting project can be given online at the museum's website or mailed to the Harvey County Historical Museum, PO Box 4, Newton KS 67114. Visit the museum at 203 N. Main in Newton to make a donation in person.

 

For more information about the Harvey County Historical Museum, visit http://hchm.org or call 316-283-2221.