5-Minute Films: Part One

In recognition of KHC’s 40th anniversary, KHC produced a collection of 5 short films featuring signature programs’ impact in Kansas. The first two short films in the series  look at Talk About Literature in Kansas book discussions and The Way We Worked Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition.

Stay tuned! More 5-Minute short films are coming soon to a computer near you.

Talk About Literature in Kansas

See the latest KHC “5-Minute Film” about Talk About Literature in Kansas at the Newton Public Library.

Click here to find a TALK book discussion near you. Contact Leslie Von Holten, program officer, to find out how you can bring a TALK book discussion to your community.

Worth Their Salt

On Friday, February 13, 1931, 25 students from Sterling College’s junior class drove to Lyons for a tour of the Diamond Crystal Salt Company mine. After descending 1,060 feet below surface to the mine floor, the students marveled at the salt mine’s tunnels and caverns illuminated by electric light and, according to a newspaper reporter, “as warm as a summer day.” Over 80 years ago, the students got a firsthand look at the work and workers in Lyons’ salt mines. Today, visitors to the Coronado Quivira Museum can take an in-depth look at the history of the salt mines at “By the Sweat of Their Brows: The Men Mechanics and Science of Salt,” the companion exhibition to “The Way We Worked,” Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition on display through October 21, 2012.

Knights of Pythias Lodge Convention in Salt Mine 1923

Knights of Pythias Lodge Convention in Salt Mine, 1923. Photo courtesy of Coronado Quivira Museum.

The college students’ tour of the mines speaks to the importance of salt mining to the residents of Lyons and Rice County, according to Maggie Carlson, director of the Coronado Quivira Museum. “When the salt beds running underneath Rice County’s prairies were confirmed in 1887, the excitement of Rice Countians could not be contained,” shared Carlson. “The Lyons Republican newspaper proudly announced, ‘It beats a coal mine! It beats natural gas! It beats an oil well! It beats the devil!’ The newspaper further encouraged would-be entrepreneurs to ‘Bring on your salt works! Bring your money, capital, and machinery! Bring on your men wanting labor! Bring on your prosperity!’”

The discovery of salt would forever change Rice County, in more ways than residents could have anticipated. “That entrepreneurial spirit eventually created five different salt works in Rice County,” explained Carlson. “Corporate men worked in Rice County to run the facilities and secure capital for starting operations from as far away as St. Louis and the East Coast of the United States. These facilities brought prosperity to Rice County which farming alone could not have provided and, as a result, the towns of Rice County flourished.”

However, this prosperity required labor. “It was the men, women, and children who worked at the various facilities, both above and below the ground, who made this prosperity possible,” noted Carlson. “From the miners blasting the rock salt free from the earth more than 1,000 feet below ground, to the women who sewed the bags the rock salt was sold in and took over mining duties during war time, to the children who picked rocks and impurities from the newly-blasted rock salt, the workers in Rice County’s salt industry have fascinating stories to tell.”

By the Sweat of Their Brows exhibit, Coronado Quivira Museum

“By the Sweat of Their Brows” exhibit at Coronado Quivira Museum explores Rice County’s salt mining history.

The stories of the salt mine workers are featured in “By the Sweat of Their Brows: The Men, Mechanics and Science of Salt,” the Coronado Quivira Museum’s companion exhibition to “The Way We Worked.” “Whether they were Americans or newly arrived immigrants from Mexico brought in to fill labor shortages and pursue the American Dream, these workers had an impact on Rice County, economically, culturally, and historically,” said Carlson. “We’re pleased to share their stories alongside the national stories featured in ‘The Way We Worked.’”

The Coronado Quivira Museum is hosting a number of “The Way We Worked”-related events through October 21.   Contact the museum for times, locations, and admission information.


The Way We Worked

The Kansas tour of The Way We Worked Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition continues its tour of Kansas. The exhibition is at the Lumberyard Arts Center in Baldwin City through May 5. Additional stories about work and working in Kansas are available at 16 “The Way We Worked in Kansas” Partner Sites across the state.

Click here for The Way We Worked tour schedule.

Click here to read “The Way We Worked in Kansas” by Virgil Dean, The Way We Worked tour historian.

Watch KHC’s The Way We Worked short film to find out what hosts have in store for the Kansas tour.



Serving Up History in Harvey County

The friendly diner waitress. The heroic firefighter. The dignified funeral director. These workers, and others,  all serve essential roles in our community today and have done so for generations. “The Way We Worked: Serving Harvey County” is a new exhibition at the Harvey County Historical Museum in Newton exploring the contributions of these workers and others – livery stable workers, laundresses, and domestic servants – over the county’s history.

As one of 16 “The Way We Worked in Kansas” Partner Sites, the Harvey County Historical Museum looked at the theme of work and working at the local level. In the process, Director Debra Hiebert and museum staff uncovered unique stories of Harvey County’s service workers, such as 19th century female business owner Lizzie Coult or the unexpected story of the dangers of railroad work uncovered while researching domestic servants.

Newton Steam Laundry“The Way We Worked: Serving Harvey County” opens on September 8 in the newly renovated Schroeder Gallery at the Harvey County Historical Museum. The museum offers related events through 2013. Visit the Harvey County Historical Museum’s website for the latest information and be sure to check out their “Voices of Harvey County” blog for more remarkable stories of Harvey County’s workers.