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New museum director to start in June

Staff writer

Marion City Museum will get a fresh start with a new director June 2, and she’s a well-known community supporter.

Peggy Blackman has lived in Marion 44 years, since her husband, Leo Blackman, moved the family of five here for a job in Hillsboro. Not only were the couple’s three children raised in Marion, so were five grandchildren.

Blackman was the community’s first woman mayor, serving from 1977 to 1986. She’s also a longtime community volunteer who has worn many hats including serving as statewide PRIDE chair and president of Kansas League of Municipalities.

“I had not seen Marion before we moved from Tyler, Texas,” Blackman said. “As soon as I drove in and saw that little church at the end of Fifth Street from Main Street, I knew this is where we were meant to be.”

The family’s commitment to the community led them to choose Marion despite the many opportunities Leo Blackman had to transfer elsewhere.

Pam Varenhorst, president of the museum board of directors, said Blackman’s long familiarity with the museum and promoting Marion were factors in the board’s decision to offer her the position despite having other good candidates.

Previous museum director Cynthia Blount did an outstanding job with a small number of volunteers over her 16-year tenure, Varenhorst said.

“Cynthia’s death left a large gap,” she said.

Varenhorst said one of the items on the museum’s agenda is to build up the volunteer base.

“We have haven’t had a lot of volunteers in the past,” Varenhorst said.

Four new volunteers have stepped forward.

The board also wants to expand computer digitalization of archives and artifacts and add software for genealogical research so people will be able and do genealogical research on site.

“We want to network with other communities and work with the city to promote local tourism,” Varenhorst said.

Another plan is to rotate displays so the museum is always “fresh” for visitors.

Fundraising is also on the museum’s to-do-list, since it operates on a donation basis.

Blackman said her experience in grant writing should come in handy with fundraising.

“I think it’s necessary to have the opportunity to have some additional fundraising,” Blackman said.

Organizing home tours is being considered as well. Blackman said another partnership to develop is with the schools. Kansas studies can be enriched with assistance from the museum, she said.

Although the museum has a newly installed handicapped-accessible entrance, the work of making the building completely accessible will be ongoing, Varenhorst said.

Blackman said she and the board will be exploring other new opportunities for the museum to build partnerships with community organizations, other regional museums, and the city.

“The only way to succeed is to have partners working with you,” Blackman said. “That’s what I found through WRAPS.”

Blackman will continue current duties as director of Watershed Restoration and Protection group through the end of her contract on June 30.

Last modified May 26, 2016

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