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Survey asks Wichitans what they think of Old Cowtown Museum

A historical re-enactor stands in the doorway of the blacksmith’s shop at Cowtown Museum.
A historical re-enactor stands in the doorway of the blacksmith’s shop at Cowtown Museum. Eagle file photo

The city of Wichita is asking for some help.

More than 17,000 e-mails were sent this week to Wichitans asking them their thoughts on Old Cowtown Museum.

The idea behind the survey is to help create a strategic plan for Cowtown over the next five to 10 years, said John D’Angelo, director of Wichita’s Arts and Culture Department. The plan is required for the museum’s accreditation.

“We are asking for public opinion,” D’Angelo said. “We are meeting with donors and getting their opinions.

“We want to know what they see the future of Cowtown should be. That’s the whole purpose of this exercise, to put together a plan that helps guide us as we move forward.”

The survey has been placed on social media sites such as Facebook. The survey emails were sent to people who frequently visit area museums and attractions as well as donors, D’Angelo said.

Cowtown was started in 1950 when the first church built in Wichita, the First Presbyterian Church, was threatened with demolition. Prominent business leaders formed a nonprofit group to save the building and acquired a 17-acre site along the Arkansas River. The museum is owned and operated by the city of Wichita.

Today, Cowtown has become a historic village with 54 buildings, including the D.S. Munger house, which was built in 1868 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Featured exhibits include a newspaper office, bank, saloon, carpenter’s shop, drugstore, bath house, law office, general store and funeral parlor.

It is considered the oldest living-history museum in the Midwest. It also is listed as an accredited museum by the American Alliance of Museums; only 4 percent of the nation’s estimated 17,500 museums are accredited.

The survey states that Old Cowtown Museum is considering some new additions to its facilities. According to one of the questions, it asks about adding an antique agricultural exhibit building; a dedicated kids area, including a place to interact with farm animals, and a children’s splash (water) park in the form of a ‘leaky water tower.’ ”

Another questions asks survey participants whether they would “miss Cowtown if it no longer was part of Wichita’s cultural community?”

D’Angelo said the results of the survey should be released within a few weeks as a representative from the American Alliance of Museums will be visiting the museum later this summer.

“Our timeline for creating a strategic plan is by the end of July,” D’Angelo said. “We are going quickly. We are casting a very broad net, and we’ve received a good response so far.

“We want the public to understand we are trying to listen and make changes based on the results.”

Reach Beccy Tanner at 316-268-6336 or btanner@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @beccytanner.

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