logo: Kansas Heritage

Ford County Historical Society
Dodge City, Kansas

Kansas Heritage Center, Dodge City
Records Life and Times of Kansas

When a person steps into the Kansas Heritage Center, it's like stepping back through time. More than 6,000 books and 600 video tapes line the shelves; file cabinets brim with research files, maps, and microfilm of Dodge City newspapers dating back to 1876; and a wide assortment of publications are available for sale, including books published by the Center. The focus of the Center is on the history of Kansas and the Old West.

     Schools from all over the state are able to borrow and buy materials from the Center. Teaching kits on cowboys, Indians, and Kansas in the 30s, etc. are available. Research files, videos, books, and Kansas posters, stickers, bookmarks, cookie cutters, and much more are also available for their use. While the Kansas Heritage Center is mainly geared toward teacher and student use, anyone may use the services and resources available there.

     The Kansas Heritage Center was established in September 1966 as the Cultural Heritage and Fine Arts Center. It was originally formed under a federal ESEA Title III planning grant. Additional federal money was received to fund the Center, but that grant expired at the end of the 1970-71 school year. The funding now comes from Unified School District 443, the state of Kansas, and sales generated by the Center. About one third of the Center's operating costs are covered from these sales.

     Jane Robison, principal of Northwest Elementary School, was hired as director in 1966. The teachers' lounge at Northwest Elementary School was used as the office. In 1967 the Center moved into newly remodeled offices across the street from Boot Hill Museum. In June the building next door was destroyed by fire causing some of the Center material to suffer smoke and water damage. As a result, it moved back to Northwest to dry out and regroup. In late August, the Center move to a spacious location at 309 West Wyatt Earp. Urban Renewal struck downtown Dodge City and Front Street buildings were demolished so in mid-November the Center moved again, this time into the basement of the Lora-Locke Hotel where its employees and patrons were almost forced to elbow each other out of the way as they searched through the stacks, files, and other historical information.

     On October 5, 1970, the Center moved into the USD 443 Administration building at 1000 North Second Avenue. The Dodge City Junior College had recently moved out. The Center has remained in that location ever since. No one wants to move all those books and materials again!

     In 1971 the Center's name was changed to the Kansas Heritage Center. In August 1981 Jane Robison died from cancer--she had been diagnosed the Thanksgiving before. In September Betty Braddock was named director and Noel Ary assistant director. Betty had been working for the Center as assistant director since August 1967 and Noel in a variety of roles since January 1969 (with time off starting in September 1978 to be director of public information for the school district).

     In 1969 there were thirteen staff members. Today the Center staff consists of three full time and one part time employees. Noel Ary became director in July 1992 when Betty retired. Dave Webb was hired as assistant director. Dave had worked with the Center in the summers since 1984 on a variety of projects including the Teens Kit, an activity book Santa Fe Trail Adventures, and 399 Kansas Characters. Most of the staff currently at the Center are or have been certified teachers. Noel retired in June 2000. Jim Sherer was the next coordinator. He has a background in education and also was a former director of Boot Hill Museum. Jim retired in 2007. Patti Bejot is the current coordinator.

     The Kansas Heritage Center deals with some of the most interesting people from across the United State and all around the world. Europeans are fascinated by the history of Dodge City and the Old West and are in contact frequently. Calls come from people who say their grandfather was marshal in Dodge City and they're looking for information. The Center attracts Hollywood directors and writers, authors, reporters, and students who use the Center to do research for projects they are working on. There have even been calls from the New York Times and the Jeopardy! game show wanting information.

     Dodge City has a fascinating history. It is a unique town with unique people that are known all over the world. The Kansas Heritage Center preserves that history.

Kansas Heritage Center, Dodge City, KS
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