GIRARD — As the Girard History Museum prepares for its Grand Reopening event on Saturday, May 4, funding for the facility remains a concern for the volunteers that operate it.
Terri Harley, president of the group Friends of Historic Girard, came before the Crawford County Commission at its April 26 meeting to discuss work that her organization has been doing on the museum as well as its application for funding through the Crawford County Museum Fund.
“We became the owners of the Girard History Museum about five years ago,” Harley said. Prior to that, the museum had not been open and had fallen into disrepair.
The Friends of Historic Girard were able to secure grant funding for the museum through the Kansas State Historical Society in 2016, Harley said. By 2017, the group had completed $116,000 worth of work on the museum including repainting as well as putting on a new roof and gutters.
“We now have something we’re proud of in one building,” Harley said, “but we actually have four buildings on the site.”
The Girard History Museum still needs new roofs on its other three buildings, Harley said.
The museum has had several long-distance visitors this year, including people who have traveled from Hawaii, Texas, New York, Australia and France. The Friends of Historic Girard have received some funding from the group of visitors that came from Hawaii, as well as some grant funding from the Girard Area Community Foundation, which has allowed them to install new LED lighting and a central air and heating system, which the museum never had in the past. These improvements have brought a new set of concerns, however.
“We’re a little bit worried because we don’t know if we’re going to be able to meet utilities,” Harley said. “We can’t be open if we can’t pay the utility bills.”
Applications for funding through the Crawford County Museum Fund, which currently funds the Crawford County Historical Museum just outside of Pittsburg and the Miners Hall Museum in Franklin, must go before the Crawford County Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) Advisory Board for discussion and approval before the county commission signs off on them, according to CVB Executive Director Devin Gorman, who also attended the April 26 County Commission meeting. Gorman said Friends of Historic Girard’s application was technically late but the CVB would be willing to consider a grace period for the organization.
“I know you guys have really worked hard to get this up and to the point where you’re at today,” Commissioner Tom Moody said of the Friends of Historic Girard’s efforts.
Commissioner Jeremy Johnson similarly said the organization’s efforts were “very impressive, I did not realize you guys were doing so much.”
While Moody seemed supportive of the museum’s plan to apply for county funding, however, he said it would need approval from the CVB board first.
“I would think that you might want to take this back to your board and kind of review it with them and get their opinion,” Moody said, addressing Gorman. “I mean I’m not against it, I’m not saying that, but we have a protocol here and we kind of need to follow it.”
Johnson similarly said he could be convinced to approve funding for the museum. “But I would want to hear from the CVB Board about their thoughts, concerns, since there is, like he said, the protocol.”
Commissioner Bruce Blair questioned whether the museum had a plan for a way to get enough visitors for the county to fund its operations.
“Busloads is one way,” said Moody.
The Girard History Museum’s grand reopening is Saturday, May 4, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. In addition to the infrastructure improvements that have been made, there are also new displays at the museum. Admission to the Girard History Museum is free, although visitors to the grand reopening can support the museum by buying nachos, a drink and a cookie for $5. The museum is located at 300 South Summit St., Girard.