The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Top Stories

July 22, 2013

Broadway stage manager helps give Baxter Springs museum makeover

BAXTER SPRINGS, Kan. — Exhibits at the Baxter Springs Heritage Center and Museum are getting a makeover from a Broadway stage manager who calls the Big Apple his home.

Brian Rardin, who graduated from Baxter Springs High School in 1981, has been working for more than a year on the project, both remotely from his apartment in New York City and on trips home to Baxter Springs to visit his mother, Judy Wilson.

His theatrical credits include “Amadeus,” “Equus,” “Frost-Nixon,” “Showboat” and many other Broadway and off-Broadway shows, but what he’s most proud of this summer are displays detailing the early history of the area that eventually would become the first Kansas cow town.

Rardin had played as a child on the spot on which the museum now stands. When he was in Baxter Springs about a year and a half ago, he took a look around.

“I noticed the signage and the displays and thought perhaps I could help take them to the next level,” he said.

His former high school theater teacher, Phyllis Abbott, is an active volunteer at the museum, and she welcomed Rardin’s creativity and his expertise as a former graphic arts major at the University of Kansas.

When museum volunteers and staff members began gearing up for the October observance of the 150th anniversary on the attack on Fort Blair and the Massacre of Baxter Springs, Rardin’s offer came just in time.

Last December, he began six months of historical research on the area’s early days, wading through piles of special collections documents, visiting New York museums and libraries, and searching online archives.

“He did graduate-level research for this,” said Larry O’Neal, a member of the Baxter Springs Historical Society and a museum volunteer.

Rardin then began assembling historical facts, maps — some never before publicly displayed — photographs and illustrations using the computer software application Photoshop. When he was finished, he sent digital files to sign makers to be produced.

Perhaps one of the most complicated pieces he created is a 40-inch by 72-inch timeline printed on a light box similar to that used for movie posters. Divided into sections, the detailed timeline features the years leading up to the Civil War, including the story of American Indians, of the military and of the Border Wars.

In another display, he created an enlarged locator map, particularly aimed at the many out-of-state visitors the museum gets from Route 66. It is based on a 21-piece pocket map of Indian Territory, now Oklahoma, that was published in 1866.

Some maps took hours of painstaking tracing or enhancing, because original versions were so faded or crumbling that the outlines or printing could barely be discerned.

Rardin worked with Brian Shivley from Prime Elements in Carthage, Mo., to fabricate each panel and display in the exhibit. Shivley’s previous work at the museum includes large murals in the baseball and mining sections.

Last week, Rardin completed a month of work at the museum installing signs, arranging displays and working with the museum staff to feature important artifacts.

“He’s been working day and night on it,” O’Neal said.

Rardin is perhaps most proud, he said, of his work on the Border Wars display.

“It really tells an important story between Missouri and Kansas, and what was at stake,” he said.

Another pride and joy is a photographic rendering of what Fort Blair — now surrounded by homes and city streets just a block northwest of the museum — might have looked like during a temporary encampment in 1863 before an attack by Quantrill’s Raiders.

“I took photographs from many different places and put them together as a sort of representative illustration,” Rardin said. “It was prairie here then — no town. It’s hard for people to imagine it, hard to visualize, and I think this helps.”

The Baxter Springs Historical Society provided funding for Rardin’s work, and O’Neal said the group hopes to apply for grants to finish off the rest of the Civil War-era and Border War-era exhibits.

Rardin also plans to transfer to the museum’s archives all of the research he conducted in order to prepare the displays. While he had to return to New York to prepare for a Broadway show that opens this fall, he said he will continue to work remotely on displays and will send them to Shivley to install.

“I just did it for the love of Baxter,” he said. “This is an amazing museum. With over 7,000 categorized artifacts — well, museums in New York City don’t even have the kinds of special collections you have here.”

O’Neal is grateful for his help.

“It’s a great impact to us, the history that’s being told here with his help,” he said. “Generations to come will be able to appreciate it.”

Location, hours

THE MUSEUM COMPLEX, located at 740 East Ave., is open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and from 1 to 4:30 p.m. on Sundays.

Text Only
Top Stories
  • 041714 School safe rooms4_72.jpg Joplin school district readies community safe rooms for storm season

    Thousands of Joplin residents will soon be able to stay safe during storms in some of the region’s newest shelters. Community safe rooms at Cecil Floyd, Stapleton, McKinley and Eastmorland elementary schools, which double as gymnasiums, and Junge Field, which will double as a field house, are expected to be open within the next few weeks, according to Mike Johnson, the school district’s director of construction.

    April 17, 2014 2 Photos

  • Public hearing set on posed TIF district

    Financial details of a proposed new tax increment financing district for the Silver Creek Galleria area will be discussed in detail at an April 28 public hearing, members of the city’s TIF Commission were told Thursday. Chris Williams, a TIF attorney representing the city of Joplin, told the panel the Thursday meeting was intended to walk commissioners through the public hearing steps.

    April 17, 2014

  • 041714 Treble Makers.jpg Carl Junction ‘Treble Makers’ to sing at Springfield Cardinals’ stadium

    Next month, 75 Carl Junction sixth-grade students will sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Hammons Field before a Springfield Cardinals game. And with more than 600 parents, family members and other residents planning to attend, the May 3 event has been dubbed “Carl Junction Day.”

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Volunteer projects spark two bills in Jefferson City

     moving through the Missouri House and Senate were inspired by a volunteer project in Carl Junction last year that stalled over a question of whether those volunteers had to be paid prevailing wage under Missouri law. “This bill is very simple. All it says is if someone is a volunteer, they won’t be forced to be paid prevailing wage,” state Rep. Charlie Davis, R-Webb City, told lawmakers during a hearing on his bill last week.

    April 17, 2014

  • 3 To Get Ready

    Three things coming your way in Friday’s Joplin Globe.

    April 17, 2014

  • More volunteers, donations sought for ‘Victory 4 Haiti’

    The second meals-for-Haiti project, scheduled for April 26, is in need of donations and volunteers, organizers say. “Victory 4 Haiti,” a food-packaging event that will provide meals to the Haitian Christian Mission in the village of Fond-Parisien and elsewhere in Haiti, needs $60,000 to pay for about 280,000 meals.

    April 16, 2014

  • TIF proposal filed for development of area at 44th Street and Range Line

    Joplin’s Tax Increment Financing Commission will hold an informational meeting today on a proposal to establish a TIF district to pay for a wetlands project on property in the area of 44th Street and Range Line, where a developer wants to build a retail, office and hospitality district.

    April 16, 2014

  • 041614 MDOT5_72.jpg JATSO recommends 15 road projects for planning

    The reconstruction of the Highway 171/Interstate 49 interchange at Carthage and the construction of a limited-access highway on the west side of Joplin and Carl Junction are among the top highway projects to be identified by the Joplin Area Transportation Study Organization.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • PART TWO: Joplin City Council report documents continued

    As a result of a court order obtained by the Globe against the City of Joplin, and Thursday's waiving of appeal by the City Council, we have received a copy of the Thomas Loraine investigation report that led to the firing of former city manager Mark Rohr. Documents are converted for digital viewing.

    The amount of documentation we received is extensive, and testimonies are continued here.

    April 16, 2014

  • Joplin city attorney takes job in Lee’s Summit

    City Attorney Brian Head will leave his Joplin post next month for a job in Lee’s Summit in suburban Kansas City. Head submitted a letter of resignation Wednesday morning to Mayor Mike Seibert and the City Council. The council is his employer.

    April 16, 2014