HESSTON — The Kansas Humanities Council recently held a board meeting at the Dyck Arboretum, inviting Harvey County organizations who had participated in their programs to share their experiences.
"It's really meaningful for our board members," said KHC Associate Director Tracy Quillin. "...so often, we don't notice how important it is for small museums and libraries to bring programming in."
Supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, KHC awards grants and organizes programs featuring speakers, authors and films. Events are provided at a minimal cost to the hosting organizations.
Libby Albers, Hesston Public Library director, said that KHC's support made it possible for the history of the 1990 Hesston tornado to be preserved, including recording oral interviews and digitizing photographs of the destruction.
"We are very glad to have those stories," Albers said.
Newton Public Library Adult Services Supervisor Dan Eells said the Talk About Literature in Kansas program benefitted patrons.
"Newton Public Library started collaborating with the Kansas Humanities Council's TALK program in 1996," Eells said. "...in those 20 years, Newton Public Library has hosted 3,699 patrons who have read a total of 143 books."
Between 2013 and 2017, there has been a 20 percent increase in attendance for the TALK discussions held at Newton Public Library.
"If you have ever attended one of our TALK discussions, you will know that they are filled with laughter, tears and, occasionally, a fight," Eells said. "Luckily, all of our heated discussions have been in good spirits and I've never had to step between or separate anyone."
The KHC presenters are favorites of Newton Public Library's patrons — as was the case of recent speaker John Burchill, who spoke on "Cowboys and Clerics."
"People wanted to know when he would be returning as soon as the program was over," Eells said.
Harvey County Historical Museum Director Debra Hiebert said the museum takes advantage of KHC resources as often as they can to bring in exhibits and speakers.
"The reason KHC is so valuable to us is because it gives us ideas," Hiebert said.
The organization does not just focus the past, but also encourages discussions about what impacts our society today, Hiebert noted.
"KHC pushes us to be better and pushes us to stay current and think in new ways," Hiebert said. "They provide resources for us to bring a different crowd in and also have different discussions."
The Ranchito programs, led by both the Harvey County Historical Museum and Newton Public Library, was an idea sparked by a KHC speaker. The program brought in Hispanic families who shared about their ancestors' lives in Newton.
"People came in and shared stories, photos and oral histories," Hiebert said. "...it wasn't a story we had, it was a story they had."
Besides drawing in more Newton residents, HCHM takes KHC programs to other cities in Harvey County.
"Those are some of our biggest crowds, when we go out to Burrton or Walton or cities like that," Hiebert said. "We try to use a lot of humanities programs in outlying spots, not just in our location, so we're spreading that out a little bit."
Susan Wickiser, chair of Bethel College's Life Enrichment Committee, noted that KHC provides some of the most popular speakers for the program, especially when their topic ties into Newton's own history, as it did when a presentation on Harvey Girls was given by Michaeline Chance-Reay.
"We use KHC speakers bureau as a resource once or twice a year," Wickiser said. "When we have a KHC program...we have over 200 people."
KHC Executive Director Julie Mulvihill noted that Harvey County had 530 events supported by the organization in the past 25 years.
"There's something about the humanities that strikes a chord with people in your communities," Mulvihill said. "It's valued and respected and we're grateful to have such strong project partners."