County historical society retooling for new mission

In fall 2016, Mary Olson of Peabody, a 25-year board member of the Marion County Historical Society, asked a group of citizens to help in the reorganization of the society.

Peggy Blackman, MCHS president, said after eight months of meetings with people from Hillsboro, Marion, Peabody, Florence, Pil­sen, Goessel, Lincolnville and the Santa Fe Trail Association, the constitution was revised.

“Our primary reason (for reorganizing) was to network our museum, historic sites and heritage in Marion County,” Blackman said.

The group’s “vision” also is to create an umbrella organization that would unite all the historical references and to promote the county, she said.

At the MCHS June 20 meeting, the constitution and by-laws will be adopted, and nine directors and officers have been elected, Blackman said.

The proposed constitution and by-laws state the goals to document, preserve, protect and promote awareness and education of the county’s history for current and future generations.

“We envision a computer link added to the Marion County website under ‘Tourism,’ listing all the events held throughout the year, and a sub-link to the MCHS,” she said.

The intent for the link to be “one-stop-and-shop” site to encourage public tourism and provide an easily found site for potential interest in businesses as part of the economic development campaign, Blackman said.

Under county umbrella

Prior to the society’s June meeting, she said, the organization is remaining a not-for-profit group, but three of the directors did approach the Marion County Board of Commis­sioners to request tax-exempt status under the county’s umbrella.

In the revised constitution and by-laws, the cost of setting up a 501(c)(3) with the Internal Revenue Service is about $3,000, and the money would come from the museum and memberships.

“It’s a lot of money when using charitable donations,” she said. “If we should come under the county’s umbrella that would alleviate the necessity of becoming a 501(c)(3) for any donations people would like to have as tax exempt going to the historical society.”

Blackman said the tours would not be “action tours,” not “sleepy tours.”

Commission Chair Randy Dallke said Susan Robson, county counselor, and Tina Spencer, county clerk, questioned whether they could bring MCHS under its wing.

Blackman said if the MCHS did have the 501(c)(3) under the county umbrella, it would seek federal funds at some point.

“We are wanting to improve our ability to show the full historical heritage of the county, and we need some help to do that,” she said. “We just want the availability to work in bringing our county together.”

Dallke said it would also open the entity to some options, too, and Blackman agreed.

Citing the Kansas Human­ities Council as one example, Blackman said if they wanted someone from the speaker’s bureau or any other activities offered, federal funds often are involved and a DUNS number is needed.

Olson said she called Greenwood County Histori­cal Society and discovered it is under the county umbrella, but Butler County’s is not.

Going further

“My concern is with the constitutions in 1958, 1968, 2001 and now 2017 there have always been the same kind of concerns regarding volunteers,” Olson said. “But if we were to get big donations and get something started, this group could go further than what we did (in previous years).”

Blackman said the organization has $2,800, but it’s going to take additional funds to operate, which includes bro­chures and advertising.

“We have the need to print or publish information about the MCHS, and yes, we can use social media, but we should go further than that.”

Dallke asked Blackman what would happen if the organization goes sour.

“The county would be responsible, and I would just want to make sure we have a someone to report to us,” he said.

Blackman said, “As far as oversight, we do want to be a stand-alone organization. We are so excited about so many museums coming together and wanting to form a network.”

“Our only consideration is for your financial support, which the county does every year with other groups,” she added.

Robson said she would have an answer for the historical society at the May 30 meeting regarding the county umbrella.

When the county ceased funding the MCHS in the 1990s, it went under the auspices of the city of Marion, Blackman said.

Duane Bair of Lincoln­ville, the MCHS vice-president, said the constitution and by-laws address some of the commissioner’s concerns.

Other members of the MCHS board are Patty Traxson of Peabody, secretary; Anita Boese of Hills­boro; Robert Harris of Florence; Fern Bartel of Goessel; Melissa Stuchlik of Pilsen with the Father Kapaun Museum, and Steve Schmidt of McPherson, Santa Fe Trail Association in Marion County.

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