Work By the Numbers

The numbers are in and it’s clear that KHC’s The Way We Worked statewide initiative was a success! Here’s a glimpse of the impact of The Way We Worked in Kansas:

  • 6 communities hosted the Smithsonian exhibition, The Way We Worked
  • 22 communities explored the theme of work locally as partner sites
  • Over 450 Kansans volunteered across the state
  • 57,475 visitors viewed the exhibitions and attended programs

All exhibition hosts saw attendance increase by at least 41%, with big increases in school field trips and visits from first-time museum goers. The Way We Worked drew out-of-towners too, with visitors traveling regionally and nationally (people from 42 states signed in).

Want more information? This infographic breaks down the success of The Way We Worked in Kansas:


The Way We Worked may be over, but Hometown Teams, the next Smithsonian traveling exhibition, opens January 2015. Stay tuned!

Work Around the Clock

Over a 24-hour period, on March 14, 2013, photographers documented Fort Scott’s workers for the A Day in the Life of Fort Scott’s Working World photo contest, part of the Gordon Parks Museum’s The Way We Worked in Kansas local project.

So, what did a day in the life of Fort Scott’s working world look like? Here’s a sample of what the cameras captured:

Fort Scott_1

Photo courtesy of Gordon Parks Museum. Copy and reuse restrictions apply.

Fort Scott 2

Photo courtesy of Gordon Parks Museum. Copy and reuse restrictions apply.

Fort Scott 3

Photo courtesy of Gordon Parks Museum. Copy and reuse restrictions apply.

Fort Scott_4

Photo courtesy of Gordon Parks Museum. Copy and reuse restrictions apply.

Click here for a pdf featuring all of the images. Photos courtesy of Gordon Parks Museum. Copy and reuse restrictions apply.

“This project has allowed the Gordon Parks Museum the opportunity to showcase the scope of Fort Scott’s working world, and to showcase our local photographers,” shared Jill Warford, executive director of the Gordon Parks Museum. “This has been an exciting grant to be a part of!”

The photographs are on exhibit at the Gordon Parks Museum through June 23. Click here for more information.

A Hay Town’s Heyday

haytown_agribusinessAgricultural work has changed dramatically since the 1800s when Independence, Kan., was known as a “Hay Town” (a nickname derived from the many homes built from hay bales). Visitors to The Way We Worked: Hay Town to Agribusiness exhibition at the Independence Historical Museum and Art Center experience the changes in farming over the last century through stories from Montgomery County farm families, traditional agricultural implements, and a look at 21st Century agribusiness and agritourism. The exhibition is part of KHC’s The Way We Worked in Kansas initiative and is on display through June 23rd.

On June 23, the museum hosts David Vail, an agricultural historian from Kansas State University, as he presents “A Historical Sketch of the Way We Worked in Montgomery County, KS from 1850 to the Present.” Click here for more information about Hay Town to Agribusiness, including an online gallery of photos from the exhibition.

Small and Mighty

3,000 people and counting have visited The Way We Worked in Franklin since it opened in May– not bad for a town with a population of 200 residents. Built on the original site of the United Mine Workers Association Hall, the Miners Hall Museum is a repository for the rich mining history of southeast Kansas. The spirit of work is everywhere at the museum, from the mining artifacts on display to the daily demonstrations of a working dragline and shovel to the 85 volunteers and docents who contribute their time as greeters, tour guides, and housekeepers for The Way We Worked.

The ladies who participated in the March of the Amazon Army me in Franklin to organize.  Photo courtesy of Miners Hall Museum.

The women who participated in the 1921 March of the Amazon Army to support the striking mine workers met in Franklin to organize.
Image courtesy of Miners Hall Museum.

Franklin’s history as a coal mining community dates back to the early 1900s when immigrants from European countries, including Italy, Germany, England, Yugoslavia, and Slovenia, poured into southeast Kansas to work in the mines. The community has been the site of many notable events, including the march of the “Amazon Army” in 1921 and, more recently, a devastating tornado in 2003. Through it all, Franklin’s residents drew on their strength and resilience to pull through, as Linda O’Nelio Knoll notes in her essay, “The Spirit Remains.”

The Kansas tour of The Way We Worked Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition may be coming to a close on June 23, but there is still plenty to see and do in and around Franklin. Click here for more information about upcoming events at the Miners Hall Museum.


UPDATE! The final visitor count at the Miners Hall Museum was 5,674 when it closed on June 23, 2013.



All the Live-Long Day

Santa Fe machinists, 1903

Santa Fe railroad machinists in Ottawa, 1903.

Ottawa, Kans., is a railroad town through and through. Not only did the Santa Fe and the Missouri Pacific railroads pass through town, but the Old Depot Museum is housed in a Santa Fe passenger depot built in 1888. So, it’s only fitting that the museum’s new exhibition is titled Workin’ on the Railroads.

Workin’ on the Railroads explores the lives of the Ottawa residents who worked for the railroads: where they lived, who they were, and how they worked. Visitors to the exhibition will learn about the day-to-day jobs on the railroad, including the job responsibilities of fire knockers and flue borers.

railroad section gang

Mexican American section gang workers at Franklin County’s Richter Station, 1930s.

The exhibition is part of  The Way We Worked in Kansas initiative. Workin’ on the Railroads is on display through May 5, 2013. The public is invited to a reception on Sunday, April 28th.

Photos courtesy of the Franklin County Historical Society.

Concordia’s Work Stories

Sisters Miriam and Louise Vaughan

When The Way We Worked Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition was at the National Orphan Train Complex, Concordia residents contributed their work stories to the exhibition’s audio tours. From the sometimes messy work experiences of an egg separator to twin sisters whose desire to help people led them down two different career paths, Concordia’s work stories offer a glimpse into north central Kansas’ working world.

Where We Worked with Gwen Trost. The food industry has a reputation for being messy, and Gwen Chizek Trost’s stories from the Seymour Packing Plant are no different. Transcript.

How We Worked with Paul Rimovsky. Music has always been one of America’s favorite pastimes, but few Americans have the opportunity to work in the music industry. Paul Rimovsky is one of those lucky few. Transcript.

Who Worked with Marlesa Roney. Marlesa Roney’s family owned and operated three movies theaters in Concordia, including the Brown Grand Theatre. Transcript.

Why We Worked with Miriam and Louise Vaughan. Twin sisters Miriam and Louise Vaughan both became Sisters of St. Joseph. They entered the convent together and then went their separate ways: Miriam began work as a teacher and Louise as a nurse. Transcript.


A Lumberyard’s Legacy in Baldwin City

When Baldwin City’s downtown lumberyard closed in 2002, community members rallied to save the historic building from demolition. After seven years and a half-million dollar renovation, the Lumberyard Arts Center was born. Now, the building that served generations of Baldwin City’s workers will host an exhibition about work from the Smithsonian Institution.

The story of the lumberyard and Baldwin City’s workers is featured in the Lumberyard Arts Center’s companion exhibition to The Way We Worked Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition. The exhibitions are on display March 23-May 5, 2013.

Parade in Baldwin City

The Ives-Hartley lumber building serves as a backdrop to a parade in downtown Baldwin City. Photo via Lumberyard Arts Center.

“Work history in this area is really the history of the Lumberyard Arts Center. The two are linked together,” said Tony Brown, board member of the Lumberyard Arts Center and KHC board member. “When the lumberyard closed, it looked like the workers there just laid down their tools and walked away. And so they left all their ledgers, all their receipts, and all their equipment. Those are the documents that tell the story of what was happening here and how it was that the lumberyard was an integral part of the Baldwin City community.”

Click here for more information about The Way We Worked hours and events in Baldwin City. For a special treat, read about the history of Baldwin City, as told from the lumberyard’s perspective.


These are the Workers in Your Neighborhood

How do 6th graders view work? Inspired by The Way We Worked Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition, USD 352 students produced this short film about work in Goodland and Sherman County.

The Way We Worked was at the High Plains Museum in Goodland December 15, 2012 – January 27, 2013.

Boeing Oral History Update

“History is history and you can’t change it, and they [Boeing] were a big part of Kansas, America, and Wichita’s history.”

-Carl Brewer, Mayor of Wichita

Mayor Carl Brewer interview

Briana O’Higgins interviews Mayor Carl Brewer for the Boeing Oral History Project.

Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, himself a former Boeing employee, recently conducted an oral history interview for the Boeing Oral History Project. The project is collecting and preserving interviews with Boeing machinists, engineers, and office staff, as well as city officials and other community members to record the impact of the plant’s closure on Wichita, a.k.a. the “Air Capital of the World.”

The Boeing Oral History Project is a partnership between the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum and the Kansas Humanities Council made possible through the support of an Archie Green Fellowship from the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

Find out more about the Boeing Oral History Project by contacting the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum at (316) 265-9314.

For Your Listening Pleasure

The Way We Worked Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition has come and gone at the Stevens County Library in Hugoton and the High Plains Museum in Goodland, but you can still learn about the work stories of these communities through audio tours recorded for the exhibition.

Stevens County Library, Hugoton

Cowboys, wildcatters, one-room schoolteachers, and postmasters — the list of occupations in Stevens County in the late 1800s and early 1900s reads like something out of a Wild West novel. However, life and work in southwest Kansas was anything but fiction. Click on the titles to listen to the work stories of Stevens County.

Where We Worked: Southwest Kansas Cowboys. The Beaty family established cattle ranches in southwest Kansas in the late 1800s. Transcript

How We Worked: Gas Capital of the Southwest. The discovery of natural gas in Stevens County in the 1920s changed life and work in Hugoton. Transcript

Who Works: Rural Children at Work. Rural children led a busy life balancing schoolwork with farm chores. Transcript

Why We Work: Mail Call. Whether by cart, wagon, rail, or auto — it took a lot of work to deliver the mail to southwest Kansas farmers and homesteaders. Transcript

High Plains Museum, Goodland

one-room school early 1900s, Sherman CoFrom the farmer using a mobile app to track water usage to the family trading corporate careers in the city for the slower pace of jobs in a small town, work in northwest Kansas takes many unexpected forms. Click on the titles to listen to the work stories from Goodland.

Where We Worked: Changes on the Farm. Over a century, high tech equipment has replaced simple machines on the farm. Transcript

How We Worked: Education. A look at the work of students, from slates to computers. Transcript

Who Works: Work in a Small Town. A couple abandons corporate jobs and urban amenities for a new life in Goodland. Transcript

Why We Work. What happens to our work when we retire? Transcript

Click here to learn more about The Way We Worked Kansas tour.