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Museum curator helped people

Staff writer

The death of Cynthia Blount last week has left Marion Historical Museum without a director. Blount served as curator for almost 16 years.

“As a board, we send our thoughts and prayers to the family,” museum board president Bill Darrow said. “At scheduled meetings or just stopping by the museum to talk, it didn’t take long for Cynthia to start talking about her kids and grandkids. They should know how proud they made her and how much happiness they brought to her.”

Darrow said Blount gave generously of her time. She often gave access to the museum outside of regular hours to people doing research. Once, after a burial, she volunteered to take the family to the museum, where they could glimpse into stories of the past and information about their loved one.

Darrow said Blount helped with special events after hours because it meant bringing more people into the museum.

Blount’s parents, the late Jack Swain and her mother Ella, served at her right hand for years, helping to arrange displays and catalogue museum items, Darrow said.

He said Blount loved interactions with people and their stories.

Board member Gary Ewert said Blount spent time making displays uniform in identification and fonts, making the information easy to see. He said she kept the museum clean and well lighted.

“She was a great asset,” he said. “She knew if the museum had an item or didn’t have it. She had a lot of knowledge to share with others.”

Darrow said Blount was competent in handling donations.

“She had a steady, confident attitude that served her well when dealing with the artifacts that came into the museum,” he said. “She had the knowledge as to how to handle certain old documents or how to set up the lighting for other artifacts. If you asked her, she would always have a reason for doing things a certain way.”

Blount’s daughter, Catherine Forsyth, said her mother’s interest in history began in childhood, when she would visit her grandfather’s downtown shoe repair store and study the surrounding limestone buildings.

“Mother had a passion for history and she liked research,” Forsyth said. “We traveled to various sites she learned about in the Marion County Kansas book.”

Forsyth said her mother volunteered with former curators Phyllis Melton and Lorraine Hadsell before taking over.

As curator, Blount spent much time outside of her regular working hours researching how to preserve antique items of clothing, such as old wedding gowns and dresses that were stored in boxes at the museum.

“She wanted to do it like other museums did it,” Forsyth said.

Blount also often took photos and documents home to scan and preserve. Her husband, Richard, made sure she had a good printer and scanner. She would reach out to others to seek identification of people in old photos.

Forsyth said her mother loved community events such as Chingawassa Days and Halloween ghost tours.

Blount instituted a “What is it?” feature in which every week or so she placed an unusual item in the glass display case in the museum entrance. A sign in front of it asked, “What is it?” Visitors would see it and would find Blount sitting at her desk around the corner and ask, “What is it?” She would explain and then lead them to explore other items on display.

Blount also gets credit for setting up a genealogy room that includes old class photos and artifacts from the schools in the county, including the many old country schools.

“Cynthia was a special woman who enjoyed, to the fullest, gathering, preserving, and sharing our community’s heritage,” Darrow said. “She will be missed.”

Last modified Feb. 4, 2016

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