In July, I had the opportunity to attend the Kansas Museums Association Directors' Forum at Strataca in Hutchinson.

In July, I had the opportunity to attend the Kansas Museums Association Directors' Forum at Strataca in Hutchinson. Strataca, formerly named the Kansas Underground Salt Museum, is a unique museum located 650 feet below ground.

This museum features exhibits about the area's salt mining history as well as Hollywood memorabilia. What are Hollywood's memorabilia and films doing 650 feet below the surface? The underground climate has a cool temperature with a low humidity which makes it an ideal storage location. While donning my mandatory hard hat and respirator pack, I asked the event coordinator how many visitors came to Strataca each day.

The museum averages about 350 people each day with 250 visitors on Sundays.
Our forum focused on advocacy for museums. Some common trends for museums are declining visitor count, lack of support from community members, and getting the public to know that our museums exist.
We understand people are busy with work, school activities, children, etc.
However, we also like to explain that our museums are important because we are preserving our heritage for years to come. Despite this, some people believe that museums are not important.
Perhaps they do not like history or they feel that the money used to fund museums could be better spent elsewhere.

Museums are an important component of a community's heath. What was the economic impact of my trip and the forum at Strataca? There were two dozen people there for the forum and if each of my colleagues spent $200 including lodging, fuel, food, and shopping that would total almost $5,000 in sales for the local economy. Think of the economic impact of Strataca's visitors for a week, a month, a year. That's revenue for Hutchinson to fix streets and provide other services for their residents. According to the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, & Tourism in 2011, Kansas received 32 million visitors, generating tourism expenditures of $8 billion. Travel and tourism also provided $917 in tax relief to each Kansas household.

Yes, the Lansing Historical Museum is not Strataca. We are a smaller museum with hopes of expansion in the future. However, when we join forces with all the other museums in Leavenworth County, we offer a draw for tourists who in turn spend money at our local businesses. Museum staff and volunteers are often the cheerleaders for the community. We promote our institutions and communities at events such as the Kansas Sampler Festival and PAIR Day. We greet visitors, give them directions, and provide other assistance to make them feel welcome. When we have new families move here, we help them find their bearings.
Communities need museums and museums need community members.
There are so many ways you can support museums. Let your friends know that yes there is a local museum and it is worth going to. Need a gift? Shop at your local museum gift shop and reap the benefits of your money staying local.
Participate in a museum's 5K or half-marathon race. Those funds will go to support the museum which in turn will support the community.
As always, feel free to stop by the Lansing Historical Museum to see the exhibits, ask questions, or offer suggestions.
The Museum is open Tuesday-Friday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturday 12-4 p.m.

Laura Phillippi is the Lansing Historical Museum site supervisor.