Lansing Historical Museum Celebrates American Archives Month
October is American Archives Month
by Laura Phillippi
Today, it seems like there is a week or a month for just about everything. October has a variety of observances including Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Caffeine Addiction Recovery Month, and National Chili Month. One that may not be as well-known is American Archives Month.
What are archives? Archives are repositories for documents, photographs, films, audio recordings, and maps. The National Archives in Kansas City is one of thirteen regional branches of the National Archives in Washington D.C. The National Archives in Kansas City has over 60,000 cubic feet of archival materials. Archival materials are sensitive and can be destroyed by temperature, moisture, light, mold, and insects. That’s where archivists come in. Lisa Lewis, associate archivist for the Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge gave a succinct description of archivists: “Archivists bring the past to the present. They organize unique historical materials, making them available for current and future research.”
The Lansing Historical Museum has over 8,000 archival records and the collection continues to grow. The collection is used by a variety of people. Some recent uses of the collection include the following: A patron wanted a copy of a photo of a business ribbon cutting in 2007 for a scrapbook project. A woman in Jefferson City, Missouri wanted to know if her grandfather’s musical acts played at the Kansas State Penitentiary now known as the Lansing Correctional Facility in the 1960s and 1970s. I asked for a list of music acts her grandfather worked with. The woman sent me a long list of popular acts and an article from the July 16, 1966 edition of Billboard. Her grandfather Harry “Hap” Peebles lost his theatrical agency office in the F-5 tornado that struck Topeka in the summer of 1966. The tornado killed sixteen people and injured over 400. The twister cut a 22 mile path of destruction through Topeka and the surrounding areas. In the aftermath, Peebles organized an 11 hour music marathon on Kansas State Radio and television featuring Ferlin Husky, Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper and the Clinch Mountain Clan, Stringbean, the Taylor Sisters, Leon Douglas, Marvis Thompson, Vern Stovall, and Janet McBride. The marathon raised over $100,000 for the Red Cross and Salvation Army to help with the recovery efforts in Topeka. After checking the list, I was able to confirm that Johnny Cash “the man in black” along with his wife, June, performed at the Kansas State Penitentiary in May of 1970.
I had come across the Leavenworth Times article while researching for the book Lansing Correctional Facility which comes out October 27th. This book project took dozens of hours to research and create. In addition to using the Museum’s collection, I had to use the Leavenworth Times microfilm at the Leavenworth Public Library, Fort Hays State University Forsyth Library’s Government Documents collection, and photographs from locals such as Gail Banker Armstrong and Gene Young. The Museum will be hosting a book signing on October 28th from 1-3 p.m. We hope you will be able to join us.