Many local residents and visitors from around the world come to see living history reenactments at the Fort Scott National Historic Site. However, the Fort is not the only place where history is alive and breathing in Fort Scott. At the Lowell Milken Center at 4 S Main St, the dedicated staff and volunteers work to resurrect the stories and extraordinary acts of unsung heroes around the world. The staff and volunteers work with students to create projects for the National History Day competition, through which students may advance from regional competition to state, and from there, to the national competition.
According to Executive Director Norm Conard, the center assists students according to their requests, of which the center receives many. Sometimes the center will suggest a mode (display board, website or performance), a topic or even help students develop a topic they have already begun to pursue. The center works not only with students and teachers, but Conard mentions that it is “tremendous the number of parents we work with here at the center.” When asked how students come up with topics for their projects, Conard said many visitors to the center will suggest a person to be researched, and that once a U.S. Senator stopped by to do just that. In other instances, interested parties will email the center the name of a person they consider to be an unsung hero. The center also employs two part-time employees in Topeka, KS who research possible topics to suggest to students.
One interesting recent local discovery was a relative of a Fort Scott community member. The name brought to the center’s attention was Adam Shoemaker. Shoemaker was a minister and early abolitionist in a small town in Indiana, who according to Conard, taught a Sunday school class at a small church. Attending that class was a gangly youth named Abraham Lincoln, future president of the United States. No doubt Shoemaker had a great influence on Lincoln, who would fight and eventually give up his life while working to provide freedom and equality for African-Americans and peace for his nation.
The center works not only with local students and teachers to develop projects, but also assists students located all across the globe through web applications such as Skype, Facebook and Twitter. In addition, the center has recently expanded to provide a location in Kedzierzyn-Kozle, Poland. According to Conard, Coodinator Marzanna Pogorzelska is located within 300 miles of 20 different countries in central Europe, which greatly expands the outreach of the center and its mission, which is, according to the Lowell Milken Center website, “to teach respect and understanding among all people, by developing history projects about unsung heroes whose actions promote these values, regardless of race, religion and creed.”
Aside from the center’s expansion overseas, it also has expanded its physical location in Fort Scott in order to present more exhibits to the public. According to Conard, the center has seen almost 20,000 visitors walk through its doors in the first 6 years of its existence, and that the expansion will “increase tourism and visibility in the community” for the center.
Drop by to see the exhibits and see the new expansion to the center from 8AM-5PM Monday-Friday, or Saturday 10AM-3PM. Donations to the Lowell Milken Center may be made on their web page in the upper right-hand corner.