Kansas Historical Society: Getting There Is NOT Half The Fun
If you have roots in Kansas, you may be planning a visit to the Kansas Historical Society (KSHS) in Topeka. Before you pack up your files and your laptop and head that way, let me warn...uh, tell...you a bit about what to expect.
For the record, I love the KSHS library. Not only is it absolutely gorgeous inside and easy to use, but the staff are always friendly.
No, really. They are. Always.
I'm not just saying that so they won't rip up my user card on my next visit. They truly will go out of their way to help you find what you're looking for.
Once you get there, that is.
For starters, despite traffic roundabouts being extremely unpopular in the UK and elsewhere, Topeka was somehow roped into building a few.
Unfortunately for you, one of them happens to be at the intersection... what used to be an intersection, that is... where you'll have to turn onto the only road to KSHS.
Forget the myth that roundabouts supposedly 1) make traffic flow more smoothly, and 2) reduce the possibility of accidents.
Those of us who've gone round and round the blasted things trying to figure out how to get out know nothing could be farther from the truth. KSHS must know too, or they wouldn't have a link on their website to the KS Dept of Transportation's how-tos for navigating a roundabout, right?
If you make it around the Wanamaker Nightmare without getting creamed, the road begins to descend and will eventually turn left, taking you between wooded glens alternating with fields of native grass.
After several more turns, you'll be greeted with the scene below. The parking lot is out of view at the left. Everything behind and to the left of the American flag is the Museum of History. Part of the Center for Historical Research (the library) is visible behind the rustic stone building at the right, which is Koch Industries' Education Center.
When the KSHS outgrew its old building in downtown Topeka, the present site was chosen partly for ease of access from I-70, and partly to allow nature trails and picnic areas. Roundabouts were unheard of, and nothing could be done about the constant wind that blows here even when there's barely a breeze in town.
But one thing could've and should've been different, and that's the unbelievably long trek from the parking lot to the entrance of the research library.
As you will see, the architecture is breath taking, but having to park the equivalent of a city block from the library's door is breath taking in a totally different way.
Let's face it, the majority of patrons aren't the young and spry. Sure, schools bring groups of students here on field trips. History majors from nearby colleges and universities use its resources to flesh out a thesis.
But mostly it's the AARP crowd hoping to find Great-grandma in a census or learn what happened to her brother Fred. Older people who'd take their business elsewhere if they had to park this far from a store's door.
The trek begins...
You made it! Hallelujah!
Grabbing the door handle, you can't help but think how much more you'd enjoy coming here if that grass were asphalt!
After several hours hunched over a microfilm reader, you run out of change for the copier, you've worn several pencils to stubs (no pens or markers allowed here), and your stomach is growling.
No way around it...it's time for the return trek.
Below is the sight that greets you as come out of the building.
Can't see your car from here?
My point exactly.
What were they thinking?...
About the photos: All photos were taken by me, JamaGenee, on 15 April 2009.
For more about KSHS
- Kansas Historical Society
Main page of the Kansas Historical Society. Lists its many holdings and services, hours its facilities are open, special events, and other things too numerous to mention here.
- Kansas Memory
Bring lunch and poke around! The main page only hints at the treasure trove of photos and scanned documents available here, i.e. every page of all but two of Samuel Reader's journals that would require wearing white gloves if examined in person.