The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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September 19, 2012

Museum exhibit takes visitors on tour of American politics

Normally, the Dorothea B. Hoover wing of the Joplin Museum Complex is devoid of anything that might be considered political.

But the museum’s acquisition in April 2009 of the Richard Boss Political Americana Collection changed that.

“We have a whole political dimension now that we did not have before,’’ said Brad Belk, director of the museum. “With all attention tuned to this year’s election, we thought we would bring it out of storage and display some of the pieces.

“It’s nearly 7,000 items,’’ Belk said. “We chose some of the best pieces and we tried to be as neutral as possible. Our goal is to educate and entertain.’’

The collection, which starts in the 1870s and moves to the present, includes political sheet music, textiles, magazines, postcards, newspapers, campaign materials, presidential materials and busts, china, glassware, books and medals, as well as civil rights, war and patriotic material.

A private donation from a former museum patron and longtime resident of Joplin was used to acquire the collection, which was appraised at more than $150,000 at the time it was purchased.

Visitors to the museum notice right from the start that something is now different about the Hoover wing. They are greeted at the entrance by life-size cutouts of former presidents George H.W. Bush and William Clinton. Inside, they find more than a half dozen displays devoted to political buttons, posters, artifacts and collectibles.

In order to make room for the collection, several of the museum’s permanent displays were temporarily moved and rotated to storage.

“The amazing depth of this collection allowed us to enhance our other exhibits with political memorabilia that is appropriate to the time of the exhibit,’’ Belk said.

Political material related to Woodrow Wilson, for example, was included in the museum’s exhibit about World War I. References to Dwight Eisenhower appear in the 1950s exhibit. A photo of Herbert Hoover is included in the exhibit about Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. Even the museum’s cookie cutter section has pieces depicting the presidents.

“The staff had a lot of fun with this exhibit,’’ Belk said.

Richard and Lila Boss, of Nevada, started collecting political artifacts more than 40 years ago when, at a garage sale, they purchased a framed and signed photograph of President John F. Kennedy.

Richard Boss, who retired in 1997, was an accountant and chief financial officer for a hospital. His job required him to travel. He would schedule his vacations to coincide with his business trips. The couple would drive and stop at garage sales and flea markets along the way.

At the time the collection was acquired by the museum, Richard Boss said, “We want it to go into a museum so young kids will be better educated on what our country really stands for.

“We all have a common history, be it Republican, Democrat or whatever. We hope this collection will create a deeper sense of patriotism in our children. After seeing this collection, we hope they will think differently about our past, present and future.”

The collection will be on display through Nov. 15 at the museum in Schifferdecker Park.

Part of the Boss collection that involves Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War also will appear in an exhibit that opens on Oct. 2 at the museum. It focuses on “The Civil War in Missouri.’’


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