The effects of COVID last year have resulted in reduced traffic at the Derby Historical Museum. But board members and a host of volunteers have used the time to make changes and improvements to the facility and exhibits – all with the aim of improving the visitor experience.
Some long overdue repairs, which included repairing walls and ceilings, painting, installing new lighting and building new showcases, have kept volunteers engaged in recent months. These improvements to the museum, housed in a former Derby school building, originally built in 1924, help modernize the facility. But it’s not just the repair work that drives the museum forward.
A few new exhibits over the past year along with a reorganization of current displays, as well as a reorganization of traffic, have helped to better tell the story of Derby. The introduction of a new music room brings together and highlights a number of elements in a common place.
The new hall features items like an 1876 salon organ that arrived in Derby in the 1880s with the FB Bowman family. The organ has chimes and other features that most organs did not have. The old Victor “Talking Machine” phonograph and the intricate and beautifully constructed Story & Clark organ are just two of the many items music lovers will love to experience. Some old classical pianos are also additional artifacts to explore.
Some of the content for the new music room was donated by Friends University in Wichita. Museum officials hope to expand the hall in the future to include other music-related items that were also part of Derby’s history.
An example of restructuring and improving the appearance of the exhibit was in the Town Hall where Derby’s history, growth and development are on display. The hall has been redesigned, reorganized and enlarged to better tell the story of Derby. The story of Derby, formerly known as El Paso, tells the story of the start of a small town of sleeping cow. Then it moves on to the period in the late 1940s and early 1950s when the Derby boom started, and then beyond.
Other new exhibits from last year included a collection of Kodak cameras that includes antiques and early models of Kodak cameras. The collection was donated by the Fred Wilken family in Derby.
Murals from the current Derby Middle School building in Madison and Woodlawn, formerly the former Derby High School, are now displayed on the walls of the museum. Volunteers are also working on a presentation of Derby’s recent 150th anniversary celebration as well as a recap of the city’s centenary.
All improvements and modifications to the Derby Historical Museum would not be possible without the help of volunteers. And the number of people helping the museum has now increased compared to previous years.
There doesn’t seem to be any magical new reason why the number of volunteers has increased. As one board member put it: “We are just attracting more and more people interested in the museum who want to participate in the aid. This has increased the available manpower which has allowed us to step up the pace of most of the renovations and repairs that have had to be done over the years.
The Derby Historical Museum is located at 208 N. Westview and is open every Saturday through October from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission is free and donations are accepted. For more information about the museum, visit https://derbykshistorymuseum.org/