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Think out of the box at area museums

Staff writer

Looking for something fun, educational, and free to do this summer? Several museums in Marion County offer such a combination.

Marion Historical Museum has a new interactive exhibit.

The Santa Fe Trail mystery box is a large wooden box with nine circular holes. Visitors stick their hands inside each hole and guess the object inside.

“Nothing will pop out at you,” museum director Cynthia Blount said, “although we were thinking about doing that for Halloween.”

Each of the nine items was an important object to riders on the Santa Fe Trail. A leather whip, a lantern, and a blanket are a few examples. The Santa Fe Trail mystery box dedicated to Dennis Youk, who collected Santa Fe Trail memorabilia.

The exhibit includes two separate tests. One, designed for young children, asks the participant to match a picture of each object with the appropriate hole. The other, for adults, has a long list of possible selections that could or could not be in the box.

Adults don’t get any clues, Blount said.

The mystery box is designed to interest children and provide a display that children and parents can participate in together. The museum drew a lot of interest during Chingawasa Days, when it had a contest challenging participants to find metal springs in the museum.

“The ones that had the most fun were children with parents,” Blount said. “We had a prize, but they didn’t really care about the prize.”

The museum has had some success bringing in local traffic — the goal of the Santa Fe Trail mystery box — over the past year. This past Christmas it promoted a contest similar in which pickles were hidden in the museum. The museum also was open Halloween and received many trick-or-treaters.

“Some people have come in and said, ‘I’ve lived here all my life and I had never been to the museum before,’” Blount said.

Most visitors are out-of-towners, out-of-staters, and even international visitors who see the Marion sign on U.S. 50 or 56 and stop in to see the museum.

The museum also sees visitors who come to research genealogy.

“Most of the time we have something,” Blount said of helping those doing genealogy work, “or I know where to send them.”

The museum is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 2 Sunday.

The museum is also collecting donations for highway signs honoring former Kansas governor and Marion resident Edward W. Hoch. The signs have been ordered.

Blount said that she wants to have the signs facing east and west on U.S. 56 erected as soon as Old Settlers’ Day.

Hillsboro

Hillsboro Museums are showing a free movie Aug. 14 at the William F. Schaeffler House Museum.

The movie is about a young boy who tries to make the world better one good deed at a time and stars Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt, and Haley Joel Osment.

Due to copyright complications the museum is not allowed to release the name of the movie.

The movie is the third for Schaeffler House this summer. “The Blindside” played in June and “Bee Movie” played July 10.

Harder also encourages Marion County residents to see the year-old “Joining American Mosaic” exhibit in the Hillsboro Museums Visitor Center.

The exhibit details the arrival of Mennonite immigrants in the mid- to late 19th Century.

“There are a lot of people who haven’t seen it yet,” Harder said.

The visitor center is free to enter but, the other museums — the Mennonite Settlement Museum and Schaeffler House — cost $3 for adults and $1 for children to tour.

The museums are open 10 a.m. to noon and 1:30 to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Goessel

The Mennonite Heritage Museum is presenting evening entertainment Aug. 7 for Threshing Days in Goessel.

Jake Schmidt and The Greenhorns will perform at 7:30 p.m. in the Goessel Grade School gym.

Admission is $5 at the door.

Last modified July 21, 2010

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