Moslers Legacy Not Lost

A couple weeks ago, we discussed the loss of Murwin Mosler’s work in the form of prints and negatives due to Mosler’s daughter’s home being hit by the May 22nd tornado.  At the time, it was thought that every aspect of Mosler’s legacy had been lost, scattered across the city and Southwest Missouri.  It was recently reported that this was not so.  In an oddly termed “rescue” it was discovered that over 25,000 negatives had not been lost, but instead were actually buried in the rubble of the home.   At present, the negatives  are in the possession of the Joplin Museum Complex for the purpose of being “saved” by the permission of Mosler’s daughter.

What the “saved” process entails is the sorting and categorizing of the negatives, which involves documenting the names of the individual in the photographs that date from 1939 to 1986.  This will be done by the Museum Complex’s volunteers, who museum director  Brad Belk notes in the article, “have never done anything like this…”  and will have to create a database to allow for easy search and distribution.  In the end, Joplin residents who lost photographs might be able to find replacement photographs within this collection.  Belk stated he hoped that the process would take only three months.  We expect this is an optimistic timeline given the lack of experience of the JMC staff, despite having an extensive collection of historic photographs of Joplin.  What the JMC should do is reach out to the State Archives staff that Secretary of State Robin Carnahan has sent to Joplin.   The State Archives have extensive experience in the sorting,  cataloging, restoration and preservation of photographs, particularly those that have suffered damage.

We’re happy to know that the negatives were not lost and an effort will be made to catalog and document this important part of Joplin’s history.  We do hope that when the Mosler collection has been fully cataloged that it’s contents will be made available to the public at large.

Restoring Joplin’s Memories

In the wake of Joplin’s tornado, homes were destroyed and the possessions within them literally scattered to the wind.  While much that was lost, furniture or clothes, can be replaced in one way or another, photographs cannot.  They are our way of capturing a moment in time be it a special event or simply the image of a loved one.  If lost, there is no way to recapture with a camera that passing moment.

One such photographic horror story concerned the photographs of Murwin Mosler, who photographed Joplin and her people over a span of decades from the 1930s to the 1960s.  Mosler’s life work, organized into a collection, was lost when the tornado destroyed his daughter’s home.

Some are not willing to let these lost photographs remained lost as numerous facebook sites, such as Joplin’s Found Photos, sprung up to attempt to reunite owners with their memories.  In turn, a website, Joplin Rescued Photos, collects these links and offers to be a central location for the effort to save photographs and return them home.  Joplin is not alone, either, as  Operation Photo Rescue is on its way to the city sometime soon.  Operation Photo Rescue consists of volunteers who will scan in damaged photographs, then digitally repair them and send the restored images to the owners for free.

While the days have passed since the storm and the clean up well under way, keep an eye open to a bent piece of paper lodged beneath a branch, it might well be someone’s memory and with the help of the people above, it might even find its way home.

Guest Post: Down Not Out – Leslie Simpson

DOWN NOT OUT

By Leslie Simpson

On a pleasant Sunday evening, May 22, 2011, an EF-5 tornado suddenly raged through densely-populated south Joplin.  It destroyed almost everything in its path for 13.8 miles in distance and up to a mile in width.

The tornado smashed down in southwest Joplin, wrecking residential areas, Cunningham Park, schools, medical offices, and a major hospital complex, St. John’s. It headed east, obliterating untold acres of late nineteenth and early twentieth century houses.  The storm’s wrath intensified as it forged east, razing businesses along Main Street, more neighborhoods, and Joplin High School.  It wiped out much of the lifeblood of Joplin’s economy, the commercial strip on Range Line Road, then rampaged on, demolishing housing, banks, industrial buildings, and more schools and churches.  It finally dissipated east of Joplin, after destroying or damaging an estimated 8,000 homes and businesses.

At the time of this writing, authorities have confirmed 138 fatalities, a number which continues to rise.  More than 1,150 people sustained injuries.  The Joplin tornado, the deadliest since modern record keeping began in 1950, ranks eighth among the deadliest tornadoes in U.S. history.

We are in shock.  We drive familiar streets yet cannot even recognize where we are.  The cruel landscape of endless rubble and shredded trees reminds us of shattered lives and endless grief.  We have lost so much, and we are hurting on many levels.  But our spirit is strong, as evidenced by the person who spray-painted “Down not out” on the shards of his former home.

Leslie Simpson, an expert on Joplin history and architecture, is the director of the Post Memorial Art Reference Library, located within the Joplin Public Library. She is the author of From Lincoln Logs to Lego Blocks: How Joplin Was Built, Now and Then and Again: Joplin Historic Architecture. and the soon to be released, Joplin: A Postcard History.

The National Register and Joplin

In the most recent copy of Preservation magazine, a publication of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, is a good article on the National Register of Historic Places.

The article outlines how the process to place a building or landmark onto the Register works, as well what benefits such a placement can provide or cannot. Below is a summary of the process laid out:

Step One: Anyone can nominate a place to be registered. To do so, one fills out a form (located here) and submits it to the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). In Missouri, the SHPO is located within the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Also, through the law which created the SHPO in Missouri, the nominations are reviewed by the Missouri Advisory Council on Historic Preservation – a council of individuals appointed by the governor that meets four times a year.

Step Two: The SHPO reviews the nomination. In that process, if it believes the nomination worthy, it will contact the owners of the landmarks, places, or buildings to inform them of the nomination. If the owner objects, then the nomination is ended. No owner (or majority of owners in a situation where multiples properties are involved) can be forced to have their property placed on the Register. However, benefits can be had if one’s property is registered!

First, being on the register opens up the property to receive grants or funding, some that are exclusive to registered properties. Second, the property then can become eligible for tax credits to fund restorations or renovations. Third, the owners get to receive the honor of having their property recognized as something of special importance to our nation’s and or the community’s history.

Step Three: The SHPO submits the nomination to the National Register for consideratation. The National Register and the SHPO both review nominees for the same criteria, significance and integrity. Significance on the local or national level, and within that category, either historically or architecturally (or both). With regard to integrity, Preservation states it best:

“The issue of integrity involves determining whether the features that contribute to the property’s significance—its location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, and the like—remain largely intact. A house may be notable because it was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, for example, but has Wright’s original design been radically altered through years of remodeling? Similarly, a building may be significant because a history-making event took place there, but has it been moved from the site where the event occurred? If the answer to either question is “yes,” the property’s integrity could be considered destroyed or compromised, potentially making it ineligible for Register listing.”

If the property appears to meet the above criteria, then it has a good chance of being accepted. However, a property usually needs to be at least 50 years old. Another aspect of a property being on the Register is that it does not restrict the owner from doing anything with their property (including tearing it down – as the Connor and other Joplin properties that made the register ended up suffering). The only restrictions are those which local or state laws or regulations might place on such historic properties.

Joplin is home to more than a few registered places and landmarks, most recently the Historic Districts located along Main Street and such buildings as the Olivia, Carnegie Library, and the Union Depot. For more buildings and places, just check out this link. The forms are wonderful sources for the history of a place, building, or landmark, as well photographs or illustrations.

Sources: Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Preservation magazine.

JMC Board Approves Next Step in Depot Plan, April 13, 2011

In a pleasantly surprising move, the Joplin Globe reports this morning that the boards which control the Joplin Museum Complex voted to approve a move forward to the next phase of the plan to restore the Union Depot as a new home for the museum. It was not without some concerns, however, as the boards did manage to find something to worry over; that being the cost of moving to a restored depot building and then, bafflingly, the cost of staffing it. Apparently, the new expected operating budget must be higher than the present one for the museum, or at least the Boards assume such.

None the less, we applaud the JMC boards for voting to go forward and hope that they continue to be bold and engage the future of Joplin and the museum.  The final result will only be beneficial to both.

JMC Board Discusses Union Depot Plan, April 12, 2011

Tonight the combined boards that oversee the Joplin Museum Complex will meet to discuss and vote on the plan presented by City Manager, Mark Rohr, on moving the JMC to a restored Union Depot building.  While we believe the vote will be only to push for further investigation and feasibility, it’s an important step in the future of the JMC and for Joplin.

It is at this point that the JMC can reject the plan, and if the City Council refuses to throw its considerable heft into the question, thus will end the chance to bring history to history.  The SPARK program, outlined by Mr. Rohr in his recent guest column in the Joplin Globe is a dynamic and bold vision for the future of the city.  The transfer of the JMC to the Union  Depot is likely not a make or break element of SPARK, it should and will move on without the JMC if the Board chooses to vote against the plan.  However, to do so will result in the JMC failing to keep abreast with the future of the city and her people.  The museum, relegated to Schifferdecker Park, will remain out of sight and out of mind of most Joplin citizens.

This is a chance for the members of the Board to recognize the same spirit of Joplin that they charge themselves with protecting, the boldness of miners and merchants, and a people who saw only a bright future for the city at the edge of the great Southwest.  We urge the Board members to vote in favor the of the plan or be left behind as the rest of Joplin moves forward into the future.

 

City Manager Mark Rohr Guest Column – April 10, 2011

In today’s issue of the Joplin Globe,a guest column was penned by City Manager Mark Rohr. Rohr, who has been responsible for much of the downtown revitalization, discussed the city’s SPARK plan. SPARK, as Mr. Rohr explained, stands for Stimulating Progress through Arts, Recreation, and Knowledge of the past. SPARK is composed of three major points, the construction of a large gathering place known as the Town Green, construction of a Joplin Regional Arts and Performance Center, and lastly, the restoration of the Union Depot as a new home to the Joplin Museum Complex. Mr. Rohr argues in the column that by pushing forward on SPARK, it will result in more jobs and make Joplin home to more interesting pastimes and activities.

Part of this plan, hinges in theory, if not necessarily in fact, on the Joplin Museum Complex boards which will be meeting on Tuesday to discuss Mr. Rohr’s proposal to move the JMC to a renovated and restored Union Depot. While theoretically the City Council holds the purse strings of the JMC, it has so far been reluctant to support Mr. Rohr’s plans for Joplin’s future by reminding the JMC boards where the majority of the museum’s funds originate from. If you know someone on one of the two boards which oversee the museum, urge them to support the plan. It’s not just a plan to bring jobs to Joplin or money and entertainment to the city, but also a chance to help preserve one of the most important structures left in a city that has unfortunately watched too much of its history demolished and paved over.

Joplin History in Volume 1, Issue 11

In the most recent issue of the Joplin Metro Magazine, Issue 11, the pickings are regrettably slim for pieces of Joplin history.  The lengthy article on the Joplin Police Department has some information on the history of the department, including a list of officers who have fallen in the line of duty.  The murder of one officer on the list, Officer Theodore Leslie, sparked the lynching of Thomas Gilyard.  For more details on that murder and the lynching, pick up a copy of White Man’s Heaven, by Kimberly Harper. You can learn more about the Joplin Police Department on Historic Joplin here. Copies of the Joplin Metro Magazine can be found around Joplin in businesses, including the lobby of the Joplin Globe building.

JMC Representatives Tour Depot

An article published yesterday in the Globe, brought us up to date on the recent developments concerning the restoration of the Union Depot and the potential plan to move the Joplin Museum Complex (JMC) to the site.

The current news is still pretty much the same news from a couple weeks ago. A group of the Museum Board’s members were given a tour of the depot by architect, Chad Greer, and city manager, Mark Rohr. The tour was an extension of the proposal pitched by Mr. Rohr near the middle of March. In response, the board, represented by Allen Shirley, declared that the JMC board planned to have a meeting on April 12, 2011, to discuss whether further study would be needed concerning the plan.

We are unsure if this means that the JMC board wants further study because they favor the plan or if it means they want further study to be convinced to go along with it. Given the history of the board over the last year, our inclination is toward the latter of the two theories.

We strongly urge the board members to press ahead with the plan. True, the removal of the museum from its present location at Schifferdecker Park would be one of the boldest moves by the JMC since its inception and move to its current home. True, as well, the JMC did try to occupy Memorial Hall, a plan which seemed to spring from the left field of Miner’s Park and was largely unsupported. Here’s the chance for the JMC to at least resume the energy of its failed proposal and to align it with the popularly supported idea of moving to the Depot. One would like to think that in such a scenario, everyone wins.

For the moment, however, the history of Joplin remains for the most part hostage to an organization that has yet so far proved as immobile as its mineral displays toward ideas that have not originated from its own body. The very collections which the JMC haphazardly safeguards were donated and initially overseen by those passionate about Joplin and passionate about Joplin’s history. One would like to think that they would support a move which would benefit the museum by placing it in one of the remaining architectural treasures of the city; a building which was once a symbol of progress and can be again as a foundation for the continuing restoration of north Main Street. It’s time to shake off the collected dust of decades and be bold.

Joplin Church Celebrates 90th Anniversary

On Sunday, the Joplin Globe reported on the 90th anniversary of the Joplin Church of God. Established in 1921, the church initially located from one spot to another before finding its permanent residence at 1402 S. Michigan Ave. The article notes the pastors who played prominent roles in the church’s history, as well a seminal moment when in the thick of the Second World War, the church became the spiritual home to a number of soldiers from nearby Camp Crowder.


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