Meade County Historical Museum – A Kansas Treasure

Many small towns across American have a historical museum. The one in Meade, Kansas is well worth spending time in. See the regular and special exhibits.

The city of Meade, Kansas, originally formed in 1884 when the land rush came to Meade County. Other cities in the county dating from back then are Fowler and Plains.

Some cities, such as Pearlette, had a start but the economy could not support that many towns. In Meade, the county seat, the historical museum does an excellent job of documenting the life of settlers in what was once called the Great American Desert.

Meade Museum Location and Exhibits

The museum is on US Highway 54 (also called Carthage Street), a block east of the traffic signal. The building is unassuming from the street, giving no hint of what’s inside. As fitting for a historical museum, the building is an old one, renovated for its current purpose. Parking is free, either on the highway in front of the museum or on the side street.

Entry is to the museum itself, not a foyer. The medium-sized room serves as the museum store, but also has a number of exhibits, including photo boards showing the history of settler families and area themes.

Behind the half-height partition walls is the museum proper. The largest part is subdivided into booths, some 8×8, some larger, each depicting a theme — including a store, a school, a kitchen, a parlor, and a post office. In addition to memorabilia and historic pieces displayed in each booth, manikins are dressed in appropriate clothes and posed in lifelike manners. Some of the booths relate to the home, farm, and the on-site support structures they had:

a kitchen
a parlor of a well-to-do family
a nursery
a dining room
a farm tool shop.

Some rooms are repeated to show different levels of family wealth. As is typical for most museums, the higher economic class is somewhat over-represented among the booth exhibits. This may in part be due to the greater level of preservation for the “things” of the higher classes.

Business and Government Services are Also Displayed

In addition to the home scenes, businesses are well represented in the museum’s exhibits — all the businesses a prairie town needs to thrive.

doctor’s office
cobbler
telephone exchange
railroad office
general store
bank.

There’s a jail exhibit, complete with a “prisoner” on a cot. This is built with the museum wall as the jail wall, the exposed brick making a realistic finish. A school room has desks, books, paper and pencil, students, and a teacher, all posed as if at work in the classroom. The nearby church scene has realistic furniture and memorabilia.

At most of the booths, memorabilia are numbered, and a list of the items is included somewhere at the front of the booth.

A Few Special Items at the Meade Museum

In the Goodnight Gallery at the back of the museum are the larger items. A phaeton, or luxury buggy, in perfect condition, is on display. This sort of buggy was listed in Virginia censuses, just after the Revolutionary War, probably for tax purposes. Also in this room is an open freighting cart and a covered wagon.

The stuffed animals displayed include a bison head, a wolf and a calf, in an attempt to show more than just the human environment. Other special exhibits include:

a quilt showing scenes in Fowler
a model of a Kansas windmill
a period doll collection
an old “permanent chair”, showing how women used to get their curls at the beauty parlor
a large saddle collection, on loan to the museum.

There is a small research library. Nancy Ohnick, curator of the museum, writes, “Eventually we hope to have a wonderful research library here. I have lots of good help and we are having so much fun doing it.”

Some of the back area of the museum demonstrates the attention to detail in the finishing. Double doors on the west lead outside the museum, the way the larger exhibits were brought in. These doors are finished just like barn doors, complete with a bar that fits behind two brackets as the means of “barring the door”.

The Meade Museum can be visited at no charge. Donations are accepted, books can be purchased, and visitors can join the Meade County Historical Society, all of which help support the museum financially.

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