Basehor museum aims for spot on Freedom’s Frontier map
A possible new partnership for the Basehor Historical Museum would shine a spotlight on Basehor’s role in the history of the Missouri-Kansas border area — and open the door to increased publicity and perhaps a share of federal funding.
Carla Crawford, the museum’s director, said the Basehor Historical Museum Society applied this week to be a Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area site.
“We every day are unraveling some new information that will tie right in to what Freedom’s Frontier is trying to do,” Crawford said.
National Heritage Areas are areas designated by Congress as having geographic significance and historical importance. They are eligible for federal funding through the National Park Service. President George W. Bush signed legislation designating 41 counties in eastern Kansas and western Missouri as the Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area.
Julie McPike, program coordinator for Freedom’s Frontier, spoke about the organization at the Thursday, Sept. 23 historical society meeting.
McPike said the Freedom’s Frontier area gained National Heritage status based largely on the story of “Bleeding Kansas” and the “Border War” — the bloody conflicts that took place between Kansas and Missouri before and during the Civil War.
Naturally for states that were on different sides of such a conflict, the people of Kansas and Missouri sometimes view that period of history differently, McPike said, which can lead to richer stories.
“We don’t all have to tell the story in the same way,” she said.
The organization has adopted other historical themes, as well, McPike said. These include the settlement and exploration of the area and the “enduring struggle for freedom” of groups such as racial minorities, women and southeast Kansas mine workers.
Steve Collins, a former Kansas City Kansas Community College professor and a Basehor resident, helped set up the meeting between the museum and Heritage Area. At the meeting, Collins said one thing Basehor may have to offer to Freedom’s Frontier is a mystery: What was happening to Basehor’s future founder, Ephraim Basehor, while Kansas and Missouri fought, and how might that conflict have shaped his future?
Collins said Basehor was said to have survived the 1863 burning of Lawrence by hiding in a well, but little else was known about his life during that period. With help from Freedom’s Frontier, the museum might be able to study what happened, he said.
“A lot of people might think that history is known,” Collins said. “Oh, my gosh — there’s so much history that‘s unknown and being lost as we’re speaking.”
McPike said a Freedom’s Frontier partnership would bring the museum additional publicity from the organization’s website, maps and promotional materials. Crawford said that visibility, along with the opportunity for extra funding for new projects, was why the society applied to be a part of Freedom’s Frontier.
“There are some opportunities for organizations like ours to get on the map,” Crawford said.
McPike said Freedom’s Frontier would decide whether to make the Basehor museum a site on its map after a visit to the museum from representatives of the Heritage Area.