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Museum hosting Smithsonian’s ‘Crossroads: Change in Rural America’

Chad Frey
cfrey@thekansan.com
Ken Spurgeon, history consultant  and Suzanne Walenta, curator of the Kansas Oil Museum, hosted the first video in a series as part of the  Smithsonian's 'Crossroads: Change in Rural America'

Smithsonian Partner Site Hosting Virtual Exhibit Crossroads: Change in Rural America is a statewide initiative featuring the exclusive Kansas tour of a Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition made possible by Humanities Kansas.

“The exhibit itself really has two parts,” said Ken Spurgeon, history consultant for the Kansas Oil Museum. “One is a physical part where you can come into the museum as the months progress and we hope we get more and more open after COVID. You be able to come into the museum and see elements from across butler county. There will be a digital element as well.”

The physical exhibit will focus on 15 communities in Butler County. This week Spurgeon and museum curator Suzanne Walenta hosted the first digital event for the exhibit — a video on Youtube containing a tour of the museum and introduction to “Virtual Exhibit Crossroads: Change in Rural America”

Virtual Exhibit Crossroads: Change in Rural America is a traveling exhibit, sponsored in part by the Kansas Humanities Council.

It is a traveling exhibit throughout the state of Kansas,” said Suzanne Walenta, curator of the Kansas Oil Museum. “It is sponsored by the Smithsonian Institute. The Butler County Historical Society, Kansas Oil Museum, is a partner site to Kauffman Museum in North Newton.”

A full exhibition is currently at the Kauffman Museum in North Newton and will remain there through January 17. The Butler County Historical Society, home of the Kansas Oil Museum, is a partner site and is hosting “Rural Crossroads: The Changing Faces and Places of Butler County.”

“This is an important crossroads,” Spurgeon said. “... The first residents of Butler County were Native Americans. We had various Native American tribes that came in and out of Butler County in the early years.”

They gave way to other settlers — thanks to the homestead act of 1860. That act made 160 acres available to those who could settle and improve their land for five years. There were incentives for Union Army veterans.

They brought with them farming, and later oil exploration.

All of those changes are documented by the museum, and the exhibit.

The exhibit was originally scheduled to run from December 5, 2020 to April 6, 2021, but will be held virtually through events hosted on the museum’s Facebook page.

The next video will show at 7 p.m. Dec. 15 and will feature El Dorado

Ken Spurgeon, history consultant for the Kansas Oil Museum gives an introduction to "Boom Town" on the Kansas Oil Museum campus.