Sounds of horses clomping, cows mooing and stagecoaches rolling along gravel are not common sounds in Manhattan, Kansas, but they used to be common in former towns in the Flint Hills region.
Kansas State assisted in creating one of the new exhibits at the Flint Hills Discovery Center, called “Going Home: Hidden Histories of the Flint Hills.” The exhibit is about several small, old towns in the Flint Hills region and their histories.
K-State students working with K-State’s Chapman Center for Rural Studies faculty contributed to the research and final presentation of the exhibition.
There’s not only a lot to see and do, but lots to listen to. The sounds mentioned, and many others, were continuously playing throughout the exhibit. It really enhanced the experience and made the reading portions much more engaging.
At first sight, the exhibit may seem small, but it is mighty. The room dedicated to the exhibit was packed with information. Yet, it was artfully executed and had something for anyone who walked through the doors. The feeling of home and warmth was immediately presented by several quotes painted on the wall, quotes about home that have been famously written or spoken throughout time.
One of the most powerful visual elements were both old and present photos of these small towns integrated together, establishing a very nostalgic feeling. The photos, when combined, were able to either show how different the location used to be or how preserved and similar it still is today. It allowed for an almost movie-like flashback effect that was very powerful.
Adding to the elements of the senses, there was a mock “living room” set up, as one would have been in an earlier era of the Flint Hills that was free to be explored and provided a more tactile element.
Adding to that, there was also a general store set up as a video booth to enhance the interactive experience. This video booth allowed guests to share their own life stories, which establishes a direct connection because the exhibit shares the stories of so many small town residents in the Flint Hills area.
One of the most interesting portions of the exhibit was the short documentary playing about the now nonexistent town of Broughton. It presented personal perspectives of individuals from the small town. It allowed for another realm of diversity by providing information in video format and through sources who have a personal connection with the history.
The exhibit also very successfully individualized the information about each town. I say this because at each stop in the exhibit, the focus was something completely different depending on the town being focused on.
For example, one focused on a local blacksmith, another focused on a local general store and a third focused quite a bit on a grasshopper infestation. It was very clear research had been done to find out what made the history of each town unique and what was important to the citizens who lived there.
Overall, the exhibit was captivating, diverse and captured a variety of towns and aspects of daily life. There were personal touches, elements of modern creativity, historical pieces and photos that combined to create a prosperous environment for engaged learning.