Powers Museum Needs Your Help

The Powers Museum of Carthage needs your help. Recently, the museum’s air condition system had a near catastrophic failure. The result is that only the main gallery and library are receiving air conditioning, while the storage area of the museum, home to many of the museum’s most valuable and climate sensitive items, is not.

As noted in the above linked Joplin Globe article, never in the museum’s 24 years has it requested public help, but the cost of replacing the faltering system is more than the museum’s usual sources of funding can support. Repairs are not an option, unfortunately, as the company which makes the needed parts is now out of business.

The Director of the Powers Museum, Michelle Hansford, stated in the Globe article, “Powers Museum has never solicited the community for operational or maintenance support before, but now we need their help to make this repair possible. Any gift, no matter what size, will be used for this purpose. At this point, anything would be appreciated.”

If you have never been to the Powers Museum, it is definitely worth a visit and a fine example of what a local history museum should be. Please show your support for local history and make whatever donation you can to help preserve Jasper County’s history.

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.

Guest Post: Down Not Out – Leslie Simpson


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.

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.

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 Museum Complex Boards to Sit On Question of Union Depot

We mentioned earlier today that City Manager, Mark Rohr, was to give a presentation to the boards that oversee the Joplin Museum Complex on moving from Schifferdecker Park to a restored Union Depot building. Thanks to Morgan Schutters, of KODE tv, we now know how the meeting unfolded.

In the presentation, Mr. Rohr estimated the budget for the restoration of the building and associated costs would be around 7.7 million dollars. Of that 7.7 million dollars, no new taxes would be required (unlike the Joplin Museum Complex’s failed attempt to take over Memorial Hall) and it would be funded entirely by existing sources. Much of this would be done using currently available tax credits. Even more importantly, after the planned restoration of the Depot, the building would qualify as a Smithsonian approved museum. We belief, but have not yet confirmed, that this is related to the Smithsonian Affiliation program – in which museum affiliates are eligible to host Smithsonian exhibits and collections. To do that, the Smithsonian requires the museum to be:

“…a viable institution, capable of caring for, protecting, and exhibiting collections in a manner consistent with the standards set by the American Association of Museums, and meeting specific requirements for long-term care and maintenance of Smithsonian collections, as set forth in the Smithsonian’s Collections Management Policy.”

(This status, one would presume, should ease the fears raised by Museum Director Brad Belk last year on the ability to safeguard the JMC’s collections (currently collecting dust and cat hair in the current location).)

Quoted in the report, board member Angie Besendorfer, implied that “a lot of questions” still need to be answered before the boards could make a decision. Likewise, the board told Mr. Rohr that it would need more time to think about the issue.

Should the boards decide to agree to the plan to move the museum into a renovated Depot building, we will be wonderfully and happily surprised. However, we fear that the board members made their minds up quite some time ago. If they haven’t, we urge all those who want to continue to see Joplin move forward on the rise, to once again believe that better days are still ahead, to speak up and out. If you know a board member, tell them you support the move to the Depot. It is an urgent issue which has been delayed for too long, and as Mr. Rohr noted in the meeting, time is running out on the means to make it happen without extra cost to the city and her residents.

Joplin City Manager to Address JMC Boards

A step forward or a step backward may be the result of today’s meeting of City Manager Mark Rohr and Architect Chad Greer, with the boards of the Joplin Museum Complex. As reported here in the Joplin Globe, Rohr and Greer will put on a presentation with the hope of convincing the board members to affirm the hope of moving the Joplin Museum Complex to a restored Union Depot.

We wish Mr. Rohr the best of luck, but given the past attitudes of the board members, as well Museum Director Brad Belk, the presentation will likely be falling on deaf ears. While the city controls the purse strings which fund the museum, the city council so far has been unwilling to exert much in the way of pressure on the museum on what would be a spectacular combination of locating Joplin’s history inside Joplin’s history.

The reluctance to use the Depot as a new home for the museum stranded on the edge of town is akin to the same apathy which resulted in the destruction of many of Joplin’s most treasured architectural features. It’s far easier to cast an old building onto a rubbish heap to join others than to envision it as part of a brighter and more imaginative future of the city.

Missouri Life Magazine Proclaims Joplin Number One City

The February, 2011 issue of Missouri Life magazine named Joplin as the number one city in the state. The magazine looked at a variety of criteria including education, crime, unemployment, public libraries, hospitals, and local sales tax. While the article is not available for free online, it does credit Joplin City Manager Mark Rohr for the inspired revitalization of downtown Joplin that has brought new life to the city. If you want to read more, just visit your local public library and see if it has the latest issue of Missouri Life.

Congratulations to Mark Rohr, his staff, and the people of Joplin who have worked hard to improve Joplin!