Part Time Job Opportunity: Membership and Visitor Coordinator at the Jackson County Historical Society

The Jackson County Historical Society​ is hiring a part time membership and visitor coordinator. This position is hourly, up to 30 hours per week at $10 per hour. Position requires the ability to work independently, engage with members and visitors, and provide guided tours of our historic sites. The coordinator needs to interact with the general public in an active environment, and efficiently accomplish multiple duties and tasks successfully. The coordinator eports to JCHS Executive Director and is responsible for supporting overall administrative needs of the non-profit organization.

Work location is JCHS headquarters at the Truman Courthouse on the Independence Square. General working hours are 9:30am- 4:30pm, Tuesday-Friday, with some weekend and evening availability.

Duties include:

  • Open and close 1859 Jail Museum Tues.-Fri. when the historic site is open (April to October.) Fill in at the museum desk when volunteers are absent.
  • Give group tours both at the 1859 Jail and the Truman Courthouse.
  • Sell merchandise in the History Center.
  • Interact with visitors and members by answering the JCHS office phone and running the JCHS History Center counter.
  • Maintain communication with JCHS members through email and direct mail, including processing new memberships and maintaining the membership database via Past Perfect.
  • Communicate with museum volunteer staff. Create volunteer schedule for 1859 Jail Museum.
  • Assume other duties as assigned.

Job Requirements:

  • Able to sit and/or stand for extended periods of time.
  • Have solid computer skills with word processing, spreadsheets and databases.
  • Must be able to lift 25 pounds.
  • Display strong initiative to help support and grow the organization.
  • Willing to take direction and complete assignments in a timely fashion.

To apply send a resume, writing sample and cover letter to

Database Conversion Project

By Michael Sprague

Since my last post, I have been assisting the Wyandotte County Museum in converting written records of its artifacts to a new digital database. The museum has been overdue for this conversion of its records for quite some time. Given the quantity of the museum’s artifacts and oddities, I am not certain how the staff has managed to organize its many closets, cabinets, and vaults. I had previously discussed this issue with the curator and the director, and they stated that this database was among the primary goals of the museum to complete. The director also jested that without the database, the staff did not know what they had in their archives. After learning about how much work has been done for the database, and how much more work still needs done, I am not so sure she was joking.

With only three paid staff members, the museum depends on the labor of employees and interns. The staff created a crowdsourcing model, drawing volunteers across the country to do the meaningful work of creating this database. Since mid-March shutdown, the museum’s database has grown from 7,000 records to more than 17,000. I am proud to have contributed 250 records to the database. It may seem like a drop in the bucket compared to 17,000, but at moments it felt like an overwhelming task.

The collections that I entered into the database ranged from 19th century real estate documents to WWI combat uniforms. All of these artifacts were donated by residents of Wyandotte County, and meticulously catalogued by a former staff member in the 1980s (who frustratingly, wrote all of these notes in cursive script). While the work was at times tedious, I certainly felt accomplished to have measurably contributed to the museum’s most needed project. I intend to volunteer my time towards this project over the summer if more work is needed, even though my internship concludes this week. If nothing else, this project showed me the staggering number of artifacts housed by the museum. It has also instilled a sense of duty to contribute more to the endeavor of properly cataloguing it.

The Limitations of Working Remotely

By Michael Sprague

Work for my internship has slowed down a bit. I knew there were limitations to the work I could do remotely, and those limitations certainly become more evident these last two weeks. Recently, I have completed two minor projects for the Wyandotte County Museum – summaries of both Western University and Sumner High School for a planned exhibit on historic institutions of education in Wyandotte County. Both schools are evidence of the resiliency and determination of the black community of Kansas City, so I consider myself privileged to have contributed to this project. I have learned much about both institutions during my time at the museum, and certainly I have much more to learn. The connections I have made during my internship will greatly benefit that end.

Aside from these two projects, I revised a role-playing game I designed for the museum, a project I previously discussed in my blog posts. My skills at communicating effectively to elementary age children are dubious at best, so it proved a more challenging task than I had expected. There is now a game draft ready to test for both elementary aged children, and high school aged students. Hopefully, it will prove as a good resource for the museum in the future.

Additionally, I made some minor edits to an exhibit I completed for Quindaro, and its recognition by the National Park Service. I have a plan with the Wyandotte County Museum’s director to work on the exhibit in the middle of May – so long as the stay-at-home order is not extended past that timeframe. This is something that I would like to see through. Remotely completing a draft for an exhibit simply does not feel rewarding on its own – I want to see the fruit of my labor hanging on display in the museum. In spite of this frustration, I am still grateful for this opportunity to get practical experience in a museum, and I will likely volunteer over the summer if I can be of further assistance to the staff

Raising Quindaro Out of Obscurity

By Michael Sprague

These last few weeks have few weeks have been atypical for the Wyandotte County Museum. Shortly after University of Missouri – Kansas City closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the director informed all volunteers to work from home. Since the stay at home order, all museum staff is working remotely. It will be closed at least until the stay at home order is lifted and will likely remain closed until May. This has complicated my work for the institution, but I am still working on and revising two concurrent projects. Before the closure of the museum, I was able to collect some photographs for one of my projects, which I have now completed. Of course, this situation is not ideal for a variety of reasons. I was steadily building connections with historians of Wyandotte County, and the shelter-in-place order has unfortunately halted that. However, I am still committed to completing my work remotely.

Last month, I completed a game for high school and college aged students at the museum, which is focused on the community of Quindaro and its fight against Browning-Ferris Industries and the Kansas City, Kansas City Council. This is a topic which I am passionate about and intend to research going into my future graduate studies. The intersecting story of the fight against a proposed landfill in the Quindaro bluffs speaks to environmental and urban developmental histories and showcases the blatant disregard of the health of communities of color in the Kansas City era during the 1980s and 90s. The boom times of Old Quindaro are certainly fascinating and show the complexity and diversity of the Kansas City region’s history – but it seems that historians have marked the end of Quindaro’s history in the 1860s. What followed was the history of a burgeoning black community, which has largely been overlooked by historians and government officials alike.

Of course, Western University, the first black public school in Kansas, and arguably the first historically black college west of the Mississippi River is a fascinating story. I have devoted a significant amount of my undergraduate studies to the institution, and the impact that it had on the black community of Kansas City. This story has not been well told by local historians. Indeed, few laymen in the Kansas City areas know of its existence. Its history should absolutely be elevated into the public awareness, and the Wyandotte County Museum intends to create an exhibit dedicated to it at some point. Hopefully, with the resources I have available, I will be able to contribute to it.

I collaborated with the director of the museum to create an exhibit for Quindaro. The townsite was recently recognized as a National Commemorative Site, and the director wanted to draw attention to this in the museum. The exhibit provides background for the boomtown and its rapid decline, followed by a period of obscurity, and re-acknowledgement during the 80s and 90s. Photographs of the Quindaro ruins are limited – most structures were either stripped bare for firewood by Union soldiers during the Civil War, or succumbed to vegetation and erosion. However, there were some photographs of structures still standing in the 1910s and 20s.

When Browning-Ferris Industries was required to fund a comprehensive archaeological survey for their proposed landfill site, few expected the ruins of a burgeoning city would be discovered. Truthfully, I do not fully understand why Quindaro’s history was so unknown at the time. Certainly, many Quindaro residents (such as Jesse Owens and Orrin M. Murray, Sr.) whose ancestors settled in the area knew what was there, but the ruins seemed to take everyone else by surprise, historians included. One archaeologist involved in the survey declared the townsite the “Pompeii of Kansas.” For more than one hundred years, the town that had contributed as a gateway for free state aid into the Kansas Territory, and as a haven for runaway Missouri slaves had been forgotten. I strongly suspect that Chester Owens was right when he said that no one knew about the history of Quindaro because no one valued the history of African Americans.

The final portion of the exhibit is dedicated to the effort to secure national funding for the Quindaro townsite. The goal is to highlight some of the effort by the community to preserve the ruins. It was not until 2002 that the townsite was registered on the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places. Unfortunately, since BFI withdrew their contract to construct a landfill, little has been done to further excavate the ruins, or to properly display what was uncovered in the 1980s. The passion was there, but the funding was not. Many are hopeful that the townsite’s recent designation as a National Commemorative Site will fund initiatives to further survey the ruins, and to display them in a more responsible manner. At this time, it is not clear how much the site will receive from the NPS, or what will be done with those funds. I ended the exhibit on a hopeful note, but in truth, I am more reserved in my optimism. Unfortunately, the endeavor to elevate Quindaro’s history has been contentious, and I do not see that changing any time soon. Circumstances would be better if the whole townsite were owned by the Unified Government of Wyandotte County, but unfortunately it must contend with the private owners of some of its property. In the interest of Quindaro’s history, I hope the community can finally come together to celebrate what the townsite represented, and its very real impact on freedmen and their descendants.

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.


  • 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 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.

Paid Internship Opportunity: Third Grade Program Assistant at the Truman Library

The Harry S. Truman Presidential Library in Independence, MO, is looking for a number of interns that will help provide an interactive learning experience to third graders through an educational program. This short term paid internship opportunity is available February – April, 2020. The interns will help conduct a 3rd grade outreach program in school classrooms. The interns will work with other interns and volunteers and lead groups of 3rd grade students (8/9 yrs old) and move students to stations in the classroom and work with students to complete tasks in those areas. Interns will also need to keep the students on track and focused. Interns will also have to keep track of time as students will be accomplishing multiple tasks in various locations.

The interns will be paid $12.50 an hour for a minimum of 100 hours and a maximum of 125 hours during late February to mid-April 2020. The hours will be during the work week, Monday through Friday and are approximately 9:30am – 2:30pm. The days and hours worked each week may vary.

The deadline for applications is December 15, 2019. Interviews will be conducted in late December or January and interns notified shortly afterwards. The internship will start in early February, 2020.

A minimum commitment of two programs a week from late February-April is required. Training will take place in January or February.

  • Current enrollment in a 2 or 4-year degree program
  • Good organizational and communication skills
  • Ability to work independently and effectively
  • Ability to balance multiple tasks
  • Dependable and punctual
  • Enjoy interacting and be comfortable with third graders
  • Extensive prior knowledge of the Truman Presidency is not required but a working knowledge of American history and government is helpful.

Interested candidates should reach out to Mark P. Adams, the Education Director at the Truman Library and Museum at

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?