Category Archives: HistoryMaking

WyCo Museum – A Lesson in Community Outreach and Cooperation in Public History

As the weather has become warmer, the Wyandotte County Museum has become more active, and my work has intensified. Recently, I completed a Sumner High School alumni project, which took considerably longer than I though. I am currently developing a role playing game for middle school children who come to the museum, which emphasizes the importance of Native American culture, environmentalism, and the preservation of historic sites. This project uses the Quindaro ruins as the model, and places the students into a debate over the landfill initiative in the 1980s and 90s. Work on this project is almost complete, and I look forward to the upcoming project – work on an exhibit for Old Quindaro.

Two weeks ago, I attended a meeting at Kansas City, Kansas Community College on behalf of the museum. KCKCC is working on a digital mural project for the region’s history. The committee has made efforts to be inclusive, and has welcomed members of the community into the planning process for the mural. The intent is to create a diverse, comprehensive history, and the community has greatly contributed to that goal. I admire the work the committee has done, and look forward to the opportunities to help in this project. Through this committee, I made many connections which will undoubtedly be useful for my role at the Wyandotte County Museum. I already have a meeting with a faculty member who is very passionate about Quindaro, and who was significantly involved in the excavation of the ruins.

The curator is currently working on an exhibit for Wyandotte County architecture. I have assisted him in setting up the exhibit. This included moving some of the masonry of the Carnegie Library, which has long been demolished in Kansas City, Kansas, and creating poster boards of photos of the most impressive buildings in KCK still standing. The masonry is quite impressive, and the exhibit will tell the history of the county through its architecture. The exhibit will be open to the public by the middle of this month, and all who are interested in Wyandotte County history are welcome to come.

Rebuilding the Community’s Trust – the Beginnings of a Wyandotte County Internship

Wyandotte County has a diverse and provocative history, and it deserves a deeper understanding by the community that now lives within its boundaries. That is the goal of the Wyandotte County Museum – the staff is intent on highlighting the region’s significance through public outreach and building strong relationships within the community to cooperatively tell the county’s history. Apparently, the museum has not had a good record with collaboratively telling Wyandotte County’s history, a fact that the staff will freely admit is an obstacle the museum to overcome. While this has already posed challenges for my internship, it is my goal as well to help rebuild the museum’s reputation.

My internship at the Wyandotte County Museum has definitely had an interesting beginning. It started with uncertainty, as I tried to gauge my role in the museum’s team. My historical research prior to interning has primarily focused on the experience of African Americans post-Emancipation, and there is certainly a compelling story of black migration to the Kansas City area from the South after the Civil War. Therefore, after some guidance from Amy Loch, the director at WyCo Museum, we have created a series of goals for my internship that are related to that field of history. The long-term goal is to potentially create a hallway exhibit for Quindaro, and to develop a role-playing game for elementary and middle school students that emphasizes the importance of stewardship of archaeological sites, and respect towards Native culture.

Thus far, I have researched the “Potato King,” Junius G. Groves, who emigrated from Kentucky to what is now Kansas City, Kansas. Groves became among the richest African Americans in the nation through his business and became a notable philanthropist for black farmers in the region, undoubtedly wishing to provide opportunities of success for others. Currently, I am working on a project related to Sumner High School, and its notable graduates. Research into graduates who stayed in the area has proven difficult, which led me to consult the curator at the Alumni Room at Sumner Academy. We spoke for two hours, and my intention was to gain a deeper understanding of black education in KCK. This connection will undoubtedly be beneficial as I move forward in interpreting African American history in the region.

It was on the same day that I contacted a notable black community leader in Kansas City, Kansas to get their input as well. This is where the reputation of the museum caught up to me. While they were polite, and indicated that they were willing to help, they certainly did not hold back their criticisms of the museum when I spoke with them on the phone. Unfortunately, this encounter was not as fruitful as I had expected, but I now understand the importance of building trust with the community. Their criticisms were well placed, and the museum can undoubtedly do better at building trust. Amy Loch recognizes this as a problem, and has worked diligently to bridge the gap, and the individual on the phone had only positive things to say about her efforts. It is my goal, in the limited degree of influence I have at the museum, to also work towards this endeavor. It will be fascinating to see where that effort goes.

Part Time Job Opportunity: Arts Council of Johnson County

The Arts Council of Johnson County is looking for a part time Administrative Assistant. The Administrative Assistant will support the Executive Director in the business and administrative needs of the Arts Council of Johnson County and its constituents. S/he will be a highly engaged, collaborative team member to fulfill the vision and mission of the Arts Council of Johnson County. The ideal candidate for this position loves the Arts and is customer-focused, detail-oriented, and highly organized with expertise in systems management, event coordination, and project management.

Responsibilities: 

  • Maintain databases
  • Plan and prioritize work activities and use time efficiently
  • Coordinate office upkeep and maintenance, including but not limited to purchasing office supplies, managing inventory, and occasional computer troubleshooting

Knowledge, Skills, and Qualifications:

  • Detail-oriented with strong accuracy level and thoroughness
  • Highly organized, loves systems and checklists, and is impeccable with tracking
  • Ability to multi-task and learn quickly
  • Excellent verbal, written, and interpersonal communication skills
  • Ability to manage multiple priorities with simultaneous deadlines
  • Accountability in areas of responsibility
  • Ability to self-motivate, take initiative, and work autonomously with minimum supervision
  • Can-do attitude, solution-oriented, and positive
  • Excellent working knowledge and experience with current computer equipment and programs

Required / Preferred Experience:

  • Minimum of three to five years office administration experience required, preferably in Executive level administrative support
  • Familiarity with the fundamentals of project management
  • Graphic design skills preferred, but not required

Job Details:

  • Status: Regular part time, non-exempt. Position has room for growth, could potentially become full-time after approximately 1 year.
  • Schedule: 30 hours per week. Mon-Fri, daily hours flexible between 8am-5pm, some evenings and weekends.
  • Compensation: $16 per hour
  • Location: Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center, 8788 Metcalf, Ste 2500, Overland Park, KS 66212
  • Other:  Free admission to arts events

How to Apply:
Send a cover letter, resume, and contact information for three references describing your qualifications and interest in the position to sarah@artsjoco.org. The email subject line should read PT Administrative Assistant Search.

Deadline for Application: Applicants will be reviewed beginning Jan. 28th. Application will remain open until position is filled.

The Arts Council of Johnson County is a non-profit organization and does not discriminate against any applicant for employment because of race, color, religion, gender, orientation, or national origin.

Salary Range: Up to $29,999

For more information, click here.

Interning at ContemPlace

When I put the address for ContemPlace into my Google Maps I was certain that I’d made a mistake. Why did it look like the “Kansas City, Missouri based” non-profit I was about to start interning for was somewhere out in Leavenworth, Kansas? I didn’t even know that KC proper extended past the Missouri River, let alone so far out into the countryside; when I pulled up the gravel driveway surrounded by ripe rows of grape vines stretching out across the hills, I became increasingly excited and mildly concerned that I had been mistakenly placed in an internship at a vineyard.

ContemPlace, founded by exhibit designer and vintner Jerry Eisterhold, is an umbrella non-profit for educational initiatives, trying to make a name for itself in national conversations surrounding civic engagement taking place among organizations such as American Public Square and the American Association for State and Local History. I was hired on to assist in the development of its premier project: a scalable, customizable poster exhibit titled Seeing Through the Census, designed for display in libraries and community centers to help inform the public of the history, purpose, utility, and wide-ranging implications of the United States’ decennial census. Several of these educational panels had already been designed before I started at ContemPlace, my initial task was to generate content for an additional 7 panels. My days were spent researching the history of the census, its successes, its failures, and its controversies. The first panel I wrote addressed LGBTQIA+ visibility in the census, something I had honestly never given a moment’s consideration to. I learned that, by tracing concentrated usage of the word “partner” rather than “husband” or “wife” to denote the relationship between two heads of household, we can use census data from 1900 on to visualize historic queer neighborhoods in U.S. cities. I also learned that, while the 2020 census will be the first to provide the option of clear distinctions between same-sex and opposite-sex relationships, it will not provide any visibility for trans and non-binary folks. And that the 21st census in 2000 was the first to allow Americans to choose more than one option when describing their racial identity. I learned, above all, that the census was not an apolitical exercise but rather a battleground for social justice and reform.

Most of my peers, and in fact, much of mainstream America, came to the same realization over the last six months due to political controversy over President Trump’s attempt at including a citizenship question in the 2020 census. Many worried that the information would be used unlawfully to identify so called “illegal immigrants” for deportation by the Trump administration’s zealous ICE raids. Though his efforts were blocked by the courts after 17 states sued the Census Bureau, significant damage had been done to the institution’s reputation as a safe and benevolent custodian of private data. Consequently, states with a high immigrant population are now facing the serious threat of an undercount that could result in the loss of millions of dollars of federal funding.

Seeing Through the Census couldn’t constitute even a drop in the bucket when it comes to the amount of census awareness needed to combat a PR catastrophe of that magnitude. Yet, however modest its impact, the project has heart. I wrote 6 more panels for the exhibit, on hard-to-count census tracts, visualizing the history of racial segregation in Kansas City, the undercounting of young children, congressional reapportionment, prison gerrymandering, and the difficulties of reconstructing Native American genealogies using historic census data. I began promoting the exhibit by contacting every public library and as many community centers as I could find in Missouri before reaching out to library systems across the nation. As of today, December 13th, only a handful have accepted the exhibit and agreed to display it. However, I’ve also had the opportunity to present a project to a meeting of regional library professionals put on by the Kansas City Public Library and to meet with members of the Mid-America Regional Council’s Complete Count Committee to discuss strategies for encouraging census participation. I have learned valuable lessons in panel design, written my first grant, collaborated with colleagues and made true friends. I continue to promote and seek funding for Seeing Through the Census and hope to have it displayed at several more venues.

So, What Does a Humanities Council Do, Anyway?

That was my first question when I began my internship at the Missouri Humanities Council (MH) this semester. I quickly learned that humanities councils work with a wide network of organizations to provide residents high quality exhibits and programming, often in communities that might not have been able to access them otherwise. Every state has a humanities council, and ours is particularly active: 

 “MH provides programming that encourages family reading, highlights Missouri’s heritage, supports creative writing by veterans, and assists local museums, libraries, and other organizations promoting education—facilitating public conversations on topics that include history, religion, archaeology, anthropology, philosophy, literature, law, ethics, and languages.”

As you might imagine, it is nearly impossible to describe a “typical work day” at the Missouri Humanities Council. As a graduate intern this semester, however, I was able to glimpse a small part of their widespread impact. 

Most days I worked with Dr. Monique Johnston, Director of Education Programs, helping to facilitate history education on a statewide level. My major project was managing the Show Me Missouri Speakers’ Bureau, which connects history speakers to organizations across the state. I was offered many opportunities to provide input and take leadership of projects as well. Using my knowledge of the current Speakers’ Bureau program and seeing a need for teen-related humanities content in the state, I created a project proposal for adding young adult presentations to the bureau roster in the future. I was also responsible for scheduling the tour of Rightfully Hers, a pop-up exhibit from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) celebrating the centennial of 19th Amendment. So far, the exhibit has been viewed by students in four high school and university libraries in the KC metro area. It was even used as part of an extra credit assignment for a Liberty High School social studies class!

Some days offered experiences that were just plain fun! In September, I helped children (and a few adults!) create their own story books as a stop on a Where the Wild Things Are themed literary scavenger hunt in the Crossroads neighborhood. Though not something that I would have expected to do as a history intern, it was a great opportunity to see how MH gets children and their families engaged with the humanities. 

One of the most interesting days was spent in Columbia, MO. I attended and helped prepare for a statewide planning meeting for organizations hosting the upcoming WaterWays exhibit, about the human connection to water. Missouri Humanities is bringing this exhibit to the state in 2020 via the Smithsonian’s Museums on Main Street (MOMS) program, which works exclusively with humanities councils to offer high quality exhibits to small towns across the nation. The meeting was fascinating, as each host organization discussed their town’s historic connections to Missouri’s water system, and their plans for engaging their communities in those stories. 

Though no two were the same, each day at MH provided opportunities to learn something new, and helped me gain skills to add to my public historian’s tool belt. 

So, what does a Humanities Council do? A better question might be: What don’t they do? 

The Chiefs have an Art Collection??!!

From the first day of my fellowship, I’ve been on a mission to spread the word about the amazing art collection at Arrowhead Stadium. There are over 50 local and regional artists in the collection and the range of size, style, and medium is unmatched in the Kansas City area. In fact, the Chiefs were applauded by the National Endowment for the Arts as wonderful example on how large sports franchises can support the arts.

The Arrowhead Art Collection is nationally acclaimed and yet those in Kansas City are often shocked when I tell them my role with the organization. So the primary focus of my fellowship, in addition to supporting the day to day operations involved with the collection, is to forge strategic partnerships in the community.

I am the fourth fellow from UMKC to have the opportunity to work with this collection. The ground work that those before me laid has allowed me to advance the collection. Matt Reeves, Austin Williams, and Brooke Leisinger all had a major role in curriculum development for the children’s groups who tour the art collection at the stadium. Up until recently, the children’s groups had been the primary focus of the fellows. The organization wanted to support the children’s tour with Visual Thinking Strategies developed by the fellows. They are awesome!

Over the last year, in addition to the children’s groups, the fellows were able to organize events such as “paint and sip” and “cookie decorating” that allowed adult groups the opportunity to engage with the collection for a fun event.

Since I started, I have met with organizations in the Kansas City art community to expand the opportunities for adult groups and specifically arts related groups in the city to experience the collection. Over the last five years working in the Kansas City art community, I’ve found that the best partnerships are formed when both parties have a deeper sense about the mission of the other organization. So, I have been working on bringing outside arts organizations in and the Chiefs organization out into the arts community.

I have been pleasantly surprised with the enthusiasm and support that I have received both internally and externally in the work I have done this semester.

On November 2nd, November First Friday, I organized an event for members of the Chiefs organization to visit six (!) arts organizations in the Crossroads. I led the group through the venues and spoke a bit about the differences in the arts organizations and the exhibitions. The variety in the Kansas City arts community is vast and something to be celebrated. I believed that if the Chiefs organization was to begin thinking about strategic partnerships with organizations, they should have a better idea of the different types of organizations in the community.

Conversely, on the night of November 20th, I was able to successfully plan and execute an event for the members of the KCPT to come into Arrowhead to experience the art collection. The event invited 150 of the patrons who support KCPT to come to the stadium for a behind the scenes experience with the art. I was able to recruit ten of the artists who are affiliated with the collection to come for the event to share some of their personal inspiration behind the works. The response to the event was overwhelmingly positive and many avenues to continued partnership discussed.

Although its only my first semester with the organization, I feel that I have been able to make a positive impact. I’ve honed some of the skill I’ve developed in my school and professional work and have been able to translate that to a large-scale organization.

I’m excited to see what next semester will bring!!

APS is moving….

So, it has been a crazy week at APS! APS has officially moved into the Westport Plexpods and they are still moving quite a bit of office stuff! So, I tried to stay out of the way as much as possible this week and focus on the APS HISTORY PROJECT. It is going well. I met with APS designers for their social media platforms and we decided to use this great app called blurb and I have been learning a lot about Blurbs uses. I have chosen to form a Trader book for APS that they can hand to their Fundraisers and then I am still trying to come up with a pamphlet styled sheeting system they can adopt and change to their ongoing platforms, so we will see how that goes. So this week has been kinda in the middle of craziness for APS And just trying to assist and stay out of the way, much as possible!!! I am using all of the material they have been housing and trying to find that cohesive collection from the beginning to the present of what APS consists of.

Until next week, my goal is to keep knocking down this major project and find bits to work on within the #metoo presentation that is taking place later on this year.

APS BINDER and office

I have been working steadily to create an accurate account of APS HISTORY. It has been a rough start due to an office move from their Troost quarters to the new Plexpods in Westport and not having access to certain computer programs but their design team had been helpful in getting a flow started. The APS team and I are gearing up to make sure it comes together nicely for the teams use. I am just very overly cautious about having control and time to set myself up for success. I want to present a final piece that they want to use over and over for their as an introduction binder to their finders. I do have a format happening against PowerPoint and bringing PDFs in one area to help contain project. I have piled all the information that had been doubled up and extensively used. Ideas are flowing and I am cutting down the unnecessary information, which I have been practicing fiercely!!!! So far, I have enjoyed jumping in on the projects that APS needs an extra hand and steadily working on this Independent project for their team to present at the end of my time. I will keep at it.

Next week I will be working APS social hour to present their new facility to their clients. So this will be an opportunity that I need to work in the community and network.

A low key setting that is a perfect setting to begin that community networking!

Until next week. I will provide a look of the project hopefully if we get to work with APS design team and computers work right!! Fingers crossed!

Last Post for APS-Finding the last step..

This will be my last post for my internship at APS. I have learned a lot from my experience with working with this small non-profit organization. Adam, Claire and Alana have given me quite the freedom to find what I felt fits Public History and what could benefit their organization too.

In the end, I put myself in areas most helpful during times of their move from their new home at the Westport Plexpod and provided assistance during their Fundraiser ‘Social’ to introduce their new site too!

During my Summer Internship, I kept busy with a side project that fit into the Public History program at UMKC (despite some computer issues at APS, I am speedily finishing the project to be able to present it to the APS TEAM! It fits perfectly for both organizations. The project contains the research of who and what APS stands for. I have to say, it was a bit tricky in the beginning, the CEO of APS really did not want the organization who owned APS PRIOR, to be present within the research. I had to meld both together to find cohesion to make sense in the end. I have written about this prior blogs about presenting a Trade Book to the team to be able use for their clients! Something to actually use and reuse, and change at will.

I have also worked closely with the APS Team on their next panel which is the #Metoo discussion. I did preliminary research on all the panelists and completed the APS fact check sheet they use during the discussion. So I am pretty proud about this! APS chose several of the candidates I selected as well!

I also assisted their Project Coordinator, Adam, through out the the Summer in any Office data entry he needed done as well.

Over all, the internship was a success. I found more connections in the community that I sought and a new support group! There is also a brand new type of discussion panel to come and visit as well that I had no knowledge of before this internship.

Thanks to APS for opening your office and workspace to me and UMKC.

I will provide Dr. Sandra Enriquez a copy of my APS HISTORY Project. Thank you!

I will see you in Sept, to assist with the #metoo panel on my on time! Thanks. Kat Miller

APS MOVE IN SOCIAL!!!

I participated in American Public Square’s Evening Social. It was a chance to present their new home to their current members with an appreciation social hour. APS and I put together a venue that showed appreciation with free snacks and drinks. I was a helping hand to whatever Adam, Claire and Alana needed that night. It was a mix of preparation of the dining hall for the guests, pouring drinks for the guests, and cleaning up the venue afterwards. I was able to put faces to names I recognized on paper. It was nice to see and talk with the long standing members of APS. Many members were interested in my story and what my journey was all about. It was quite surprising actually! It was also interesting to see the APS work in action! This wasn’t just a thank you social hour but to remind them that there is so much more to accomplish within this non-profit organization. Claire and Adam really show how a small non-profit organization is really run by getting out in the community and keeping your organization’s name in the rotation. That is what I learned from this late night work event! Cheers to that!

I am wrapping up my final weeks at APS, there were a few computer issues when APS moved and had to wait a few days to get up and running again to speedily recover lost time on their APS HISTORY PROJECT that I am hopeful to present to them as a gift before I leave by July 31st! It has been a great and interesting internship that I definitely needed to see what else was out there in the community.

Until next week. Feverishly typing and arranging my project! See the post below about the social that took place for their members