Museum Expert Visits Joplin

As reported in the Joplin Globe today, the Joplin Museum Complex in Schifferdecker Park was visited yesterday by Mary Frances Turner, of Synergy Design Group (a museum design firm) and a museum expert.  Ms. Turner was invited by Chad Greer, the architect hired by City Manager, Mark Rohr, to oversee the expected costs of restoring the Depot.  The purpose of her visit was to evaluate the collection of the museum and to offer her analysis on whether the Union Depot would be a suitable home for the museum.

Of note is the fact that the museum houses an extensive photographic collection of early Joplin, not to mention an amazing mineral collection.  The Globe quoted Ms. Turner as responding, “This is it,” Turner said of the photographs and other historical documents, some of them portraying life in the lead and zinc mines that underpin the founding of Joplin and much of the region. “This is a gold mine” for research, she said.”

Per the condition of the Depot, the matter of the standing water in the basement was raised as an issue toward the climate controlled nature that will be demanded of the new home for the museum. There was also the question of parking.

For those of us closely following the situation, we will have to wait another 4 to 6 weeks for Ms. Turner’s report.

Needless to say, here’s our rather passionate response!

The article also states,

“[Museum Director Brad] Belk has used the materials in some local history books he has written, but the public is largely unaware of the photographs because there is no space in the current setup for them to be accessed or viewed by visitors.

Belk and Shirley listed the mineral collection and mining machines, the local history exhibits and archives, an 8,000-item presidential collection, a collection of World War II-era uniforms, fashions and textiles, Civil War items, and dolls as among the collections that need display space. Some have never been viewed by the public.”

First, as we have repeatedly discussed in the past, Brad Belk has refused access to the photograph collection to visitors (including us). Will this really change if the museum relocates to a new building? If there is a new facility, will Belk finally allow the public to view and obtain copies of photographs, use them in books, or other publications?

To be honest, we’re skeptical. It appears as if he treats the collection as his own personal fiefdom. If Belk was smart, he would model the photograph collection like the one at the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History in Springdale, Arkansas, one of the finest small museums in nation.

If you want to see what the Joplin Museum Complex should be like, then visit the Shiloh Museum. It has the largest photograph collection in the state of Arkansas that is lovingly and professionally cared for by trained, expert staff.  The museum features an art collection (artwork is frequently rotated on a regular basis), permanent exhibits about life in the Ozarks, rotating exhibits on topics of local, regional, and national interest, a superb museum collection, and outdoor exhibits. Its staff have years of museum and public history experience with actual degrees and training in the museum field. Its director is very active (committee and board member) in the American Association of Museums (AAM) the lead organization in the field. Supported by the city of Springdale, Arkansas, and private donors, it operates on a small budget every year, less than $500,000.

Can Brad Belk run a museum like that?  It is yet to be seen.

Here’s our view: Get a new building, get a new director, and dump the cookie cutter/doll collection. Museums cannot and should not collect every item that comes in the door. Cut the excess and focus on the true gems of the collection.

However, even if the Joplin Museum Complex does not move into the Union Depot, its collections of Joplin’s history must be made available to the public.  Such historic treasures should not be relegated to the private fiefdom of the museum to be made available at the whims of the museum’s leadership.  We at Historic Joplin have been to a number of research centers and a research area may only consist of a table and a couple chairs.   It is not a difficult matter to take up.  In terms of organizing the collection, it is amazing what earnest volunteers are willing to do and organize if only given the proper direction.

Second, this has not been the first time the issue of water has been raised concerning the Union Depot as a home to the museum.  We can only hope that it does not represent a barrier to the decision to move the museum.  While we are not experts in restoration or plumbing, it would seem that waterproofing a basement is not high on the list of complex restoration work.  The cost of this fix should be considered with the benefit to restoring and saving an architectural masterpiece, as well providing the collections of the Joplin Museum Complex a worthy and admirable home. We Missourians are known for our tenacity, our resourcefulness, and our resiliency.

Finally, this is an important moment for Joplin and its history.  The chance exists to save a building that has been neglected for too long and to provide the museum a home with roots nearly as deep as the city itself.  The Union Depot is more accessible to those lured to the rehabilitated downtown area than the Joplin Museum Complex’s present home and it is a beautiful building that need not be viewed from Main Street to be admired for its style and design.

We hope that Mary Frances Turner can overlook the weak complaints about water at the Union Depot and will recommend that it should serve as the new home of the Joplin Museum Complex. Make a bold leap of faith and save the Union Depot and provide the citizens of Joplin with a credible museum.

If you want to voice your support for the Union Depot, why not contact the Mayor Mike Woolston, City Manager Mark Rohr, and Museum Director Brad Belk? Tell them what you think. Let your voices be heard.

Joplin Union Depot

Save the Union Depot!

Got Any Photos of the Union Depot?

Earlier this week, the Joplin Globe ran a story concerning a request for photographs of the Union Depot.  As part of the growing movement to renovate the Union Depot, architect Chad Greer has requested of the public any and all photos of the Union Depot’s interior.  A visit to the Depot will reveal that there is very little left in the old train station at the moment, much of it stripped during the previous attempt at renovation.  For links to some interior photographs and a video walk through of the interior, see this previous post.

In the realm of restoration, the goal is to achieve the closest resemblance to the past as possible.  Achieving that aim can also be expensive, hence the need to know exactly what you’re trying to accomplish.  For those who might have interior shots of the Union Depot, see the first link for contact information with Mr. Greer.  Importantly, you don’t have to relinquish those family photographs, either, Greer and his associates can make a copy of your photograph and let you keep the original.  An additional aspect of this request is to build up a photographic archive as a historic collection, something we naturally applaud.

HJ Union Depot image

Got a Photo of the Union Depot's Interior? Help 'em out!

Museum Boards Meet to Discuss Depot Plans – HJ’s Response

Today’s Joplin Globe reported that the Joplin Museum and Historical Society boards met to discuss the Gryphon Building and Union Depot as potential locations for the Joplin Museum Complex. Both boards voted against a proposal to purchase the newly renovated Gryphon Building. The cost of the Gryphon Building was far too high for the museum.

Joplin Museum Complex Director Brad Belk then discussed the Union Depot. After noting, “It is better laid out than the current museum location” he claimed the size of the depot is smaller than the current museum facility and that it has water issues in the basement.

Gee.

The depot is almost one hundred years old and has been sitting empty since the 1970s. With no windows, no doors, and no maintenance, it’s not surprising that it has a few issues. At least one architect and one contractor have expressed their opinion that the structure is sound and built to last.

It seems Belk and the museum/society boards are dragging their feet when there is a golden opportunity before them. They could be heroes! Imagine – revitalizing the Union Depot, a beautiful structure that stands on the site of the lead strike that led to Joplin’s very existence – and helping anchor and rehabilitate north downtown Joplin. Instead, they are letting a few puddles of water and space concerns constrain them.

Look into the water issue. Talk to architects about the cost and design of an addition to the current structure that would bring needed additional space that would, at the same time,  preserve the architectural integrity of the depot. The Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City managed to do this.

Now, we realize that the museum complex is poor as a church mouse and that its board members are unable and/or unwilling to cough up a significant amount of funds needed to bring in a renown architect and build a modern addition like the Nelson-Atkins. That isn’t necessary. What is necessary is that the boards and Belk seize this opportunity. A local architect can be found who can create a tasteful and aesthetically pleasing addition.

They have no concept of vision. But, then again, it seems that the museum and society boards are populated by good old boys who know very little about museums and historic preservation.

Why not look into Mark Rohr’s proposals of grants and other funding methods to make the dream come true? It certainly would be better to try and fail in this case rather than just sit and do nothing but complain and grumble.

Let’s face it.

In April the voters declined to support the museum’s pathetic takeover of Memorial Hall. Memorial Hall is over. Move on. Move on to what people are actually voicing support for. Museum attendance across the nation has been declining for years. Either you march into the future or you wait to be swept up into the dustbin of history and irrelevance.

What will it be?

In memory of the feisty Joplin Globe and News-Herald editors of yesteryear who never failed to express their opinion whether popular or not.

Historic Joplin - Support the Union  Depot Proposal

Don't Let The Museum Board Balk at A New Home!

Union Depot Renovation Has Support of Downtown Merchants

In follow up coverage by the Joplin Globe, merchants along Main Street have voiced their support for the depot renovation for use as a museum, along with the rest of the plans from Tuesday’s, July 6, 2010, meeting.  The Globe has also run an editorial supporting the plan, though with some worry about funding drying up in the current economic condition.  The Globe‘s suggestion for the City Council? Act  steadfastly.  Make it so, Joplin!

Support the renovation of the Joplin Union Depot as a new home for the Joplin Museum Complex!

Support the renovation of the Joplin Union Depot as a new home for the Joplin Museum Complex!

Renovated Union Depot Proposed Home For Museum

At last night’s City Council meeting, City Manager Mark Rohr proposed that the Union Depot be renovated to be used as a new home for the Joplin Museum Complex. As covered by the Joplin Globe, Rohr believes that existing sources of funding exist and as a result, no new taxes would be required for the project.

Joplin Union Depot

The Joplin Union Depot not long after it was opened. A great future home for the Joplin Museum Complex.

We, here at Historic Joplin, strongly support this proposal.  We hope that it becomes reality and that someday in the near future, we can walk in and enjoy a beautifully restored depot.  Even though the Carnegie Library appears not to have been part of the new plan, we hope it too has a bright future.

Joplin Carnegie Library

The Joplin Carnegie Library as it appears in 2010.

The Museum Issue May Rise Again

On Saturday, July 3, the Joplin Globe spoke with City Manager, Mark Rohr, about an announcement he will give on Tuesday, July 6.  Rohr was responsible for the planning behind the revitalization of the Sunshine Lamp district in 2005.  It was implied in the article that remaining elements of the 2005 plan may be addressed, those being the restoration and use of the neglected Union Depot, the currently privately owned Carnegie Library, and the Rains building.  It was in that plan that the Museum Complex was to theoretically be moved to the depot.

Historic Joplin supported this solution to the museum problem back in April and certainly continue to support it.  The depot is one of the city’s last remaining architectural beauties and there need not be any further Connor travesties by allowing it to fall to pieces or purposely tear it down.

For a two part history of Joplin’s Carnegie Library, click here and here.

Globe Article Covers the Closing of Howsmon’s

Last Friday, the Joplin Globe covered the shuttering of Howsmon’s Office Supply and Furniture Company, a 47 year old business.  As the article notes, Howsmon’s began with the purchase of Spurgeon’s Bookstore, which originally was Osterloh’s Bookstore that had opened in 1890.  Osterloh, in addition to selling books, was also an avid photographer and is responsible for a number of early Joplin photographs.  While Howsmon’s didn’t remain in the original building for long, Osterloh’s bookstore was located on the 300 block just a few yards north of its towering neighbor, the Connor Hotel.  Below is a photograph capturing a busy day in front of the bookstore:

Osterloh's Bookstore

Osterloh's larger sign, obstructed by its neighboring theater's sign, advertised book and office supplies. The structure two buildings down is the Connor Hotel, dating this photograph after 1908.

Source: The Joplin Globe

House of Lords article in the Joplin Globe

In support of ReadMOre Missouri, a statewide reading program, the House of Lords will be “recreated” at the Post-Memorial Library in the Joplin Public Library from 7:00 to 8:30 pm on Friday, April 23.  While the gambling history of the House of Lords will be brought to life with several games of chance, the focus will be on Mark Twain, the selected author for ReadMOre Missouri this year.  On Tuesday, a living history presenter will channel Mark Twain in a presentation to be given at the event.  For a brief history of the House of Lords, you can read the article at the Joplin Globe here.

House of Lords event poster for Post-Memorial Library

House of Lords event poster for Post-Memorial Library

Federal Grant Money to Fund Efforts to Get More Buildings on Historic Register

Reported here in the Joplin Globe, Joplin has received $6,500 in federal grant money from the National Historic Preservation Fund.  The purpose of the grant will be to assist in getting the 800 and 900 blocks of Main Street listed as a historic commercial district.  A quick drive down Main Street will quickly bring attention to the fact that this stretch of downtown has the most complete section of historic buildings after the 400 to 700 blocks.

Such funding is essential in helping to preserve and restore Joplin’s architectual heritage.

Developments on the historic Saginaw Round Barn

Last month, one of the historic barns of the Joplin area, a round barn located just south of the city near Saginaw, was severely damaged in a spring blizzard.  We covered the article on the barn then, and now bring to you a new development.  At the time, the owners of the barn had believed the structure had been fatally structured and all that remained in its future was a bulldozer.  Since then, the owners have been in contact with the State Historic Preservation Office about it nominating the barn for the National Register of Historic Places.  If this were to happen, the owners would eligible for tax credits which could be put toward restoring the barn.  Granted, being listed on the National Register is not a magic cure all.  Joplin’s most impressive and perhaps, most fabulous building, the Connor Hotel was also on the National Register, after all.  For now, we can only hope for the best.

See this link for the Globe article on recent developments, as well an antique picture of the barn.