Celebrating Kansas Voices By James Webb, Jr.

This is a project to share and appreciate the diversity that our great state contains. That diversity comes in many forms, including history, the people, lifestyles, and so much more.

To capture just a fraction of all there is to be shared, I took trips to different museums throughout the state, and I am sharing those experiences here.

First stop: Chase County!

Chase County contains a collection of small towns, each with their own unique histories. Cottonwood Falls and Strong City are two such places.

One of the key features within Chase County is the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, which is a preservation/protection of the once vast tallgrass prairie ecosystem. That ecosystem now is roughly just 4%.

This collection of photographs, featured at a museum in Cottonwood Falls, shows the rich history and provides perspective to times past.

The lifestyles of the people raised here are guaranteed to be different from you and I, but regardless, we all still share the same Kansas backbone that makes us one. Small town or large, urban or rural, we are all Kansans with histories to share.

Historic courthouse in Cottonwood Falls museum, this particular photo showing where a jury would sit during a trial.
This is the historic jailhouse in Chase County. I have never been in a modern jailhouse (nor do I plan to), but I imagine it is much different than these.
Chase County is just a little way out of Council Grove, so if you are ever in that area, go check out the small towns and people! The history and perspective will not disappoint.

Now, we head to Kansas City!

There is so much to Kansas City as far as history and diversity go, that I would need a separate presentation just for those topics. So here, I will focus on some of the neat stops I was able to make in KC, including a few museums and a coffeehouse.

One of the most well-known stops in Kansas City is the Union Station. The Union Station served as one of the most populous train stations up until World War 2, after which the use of trains began to decline.

After its closing in the mid-1900s, much attention was given to the Union Station. Renovations took place to turn it into a museum filled with attractions including Science City and a theater. With the spread of Amtrak, the Union Station actually became a hotspot for the train system once again.

Museums often present more than what meets the eye, and the Union Station is no exception. Not limited to train displays, there were also LEGO and house models. The Union Station served as a point where people across the nation could meet at a single spot, or where people in this spot could spread across the nation. The rails truly supported cultural spread within the state, and America.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City covers the tenth disctrict of the Federal Reserve. Attached to the bank is a museum, with history of money, monetary policies, and of several people of importance, such as presidents.

The following depict shifts in policy and currency over time, which affected all the people in America (obvious because Kansas was not yet around during part of these times).

The Fed and the attached museum are some of the largest as far as geographic region served, and content presented, within the United States.

The Federal Reserve, and money in general, have been the source of some the greatest impacts on Kansas culture in history. Take for instance, the financial crisis roughly ten years ago, the effects of the Great Depression on people (farmers in particular) in rural and urban living areas, and current economic policy within our state.

Our final museum stop in Kansas City is the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. If one thing can express culture of a people, it is the art.
Artists come from all across the world. Thanks especially to one of our future stops, Kansas has become a central location and acts as a melting pot of different histories and heritages. The spectrum of the art within this museum is a major reflection of the diversity past and present.

The video above showcased so many aspects of Kansas City, and showed so much diversity within the population.

The fountain pictured is one of--if not the--oldest parts of the art museum, as well as the city. It sort of stands as a symbol of how the history has been so fluid over time.
Kansas is home to an array of different people: people of different skin tones, different religious upbringings, different social classes, different educations, different lives. But through those differences, we are all still one people. We all share one Kansas voice, one that should be celebrated as a collection, rather than degraded through differences.

The Roasterie in Kansas City is one the most well-known regional, local coffeeshops. Their tours, their source of coffee, and the coffee itself bring together people who might come from different walks of life, but have that love (or maybe it is addiction) for coffee in common.

Different people, whether due to personal preference or upbringing, take their coffee differently. A coffee break in one culture means something different than another. But the commonality is the appreciation for the beverage, showing again that even through differences, we are the same. Thank you, Kansas.

Now, to Wamego!

Wamego is a little outside of our little Manhattan town. It is pretty well-known for its festivals and celebrations, one big one being the fireworks show for Independence Day.

Wamego is big enough to not be small, but small enough not to be big. Its residents are not Manhattanians, but they are Kansans.

Kansas is famous for the film The Wizard of Oz. Wamego is home to the Oz Museum, which commemorates not just the film, but Kansas history in general.

We head now to somewhere closer to my home: Fort Riley!

Fort Riley, home of the Big Red One, is probably the biggest factor in Kansas' diversity. It is in the center of the United States, and one of the most well-known bases in the nation. Soldiers of all different parts of the world end up here with their families, who also bring diversity with them. Fort Riley's proximity to Junction City schools leads to Junction City having probably the most diverse student population in the surrounding region.
Some people do not realize the sacrifices that our armed service members make. Their sacrifices--their support for our nation--are what allow us to appreciate the great state and nation we live in.

Being a person in the military, or being part of a military family definitely creates differences in growing up. However, there are still plenty of commonalities with non-military citizens--plenty of things that we share.

Different as we all may on the surface appear to be, we live similar lives. We all eat the same dinner table, have the same food in our pantries, go to the same schools, play with the same toys, and grow in remarkably nearly-parallel ways.

We leave Fort Riley for our final stop. . .

Our last stop is my home area: Geary County.

Geary County houses the city I grew up: Junction City. I was raised here and lived and attended the schools here until I moved to Manhattan a couple years ago for college. The city has the most diversity in its people that I have ever experienced, and--disregarding the bad rap it gets--is one of the most unique places in Kansas to be.

Junction City gets its name from its geographic location, relative to the rivers surrounding it. It, like Kansas overall, has a rich history.
The schools of Geary County do not differ drastically from the schools in other parts of the region we have visited. Really, this emphasizes that we are not all so different after all, right?

Geary County, and the areas that surround it, are farm centrals. Agriculture was more than just a job; it it the heritage, the way of life, that built Kansas, and sustains it today. The field brings people from all corners of the state together.

My presentation is essentially done with.

Below, I have placed buttons with links to the different spots we have stopped. The last button is a link to the Celebrating Kansas Voices website--the motive for this project.

"Celebrating Kansas voices" means celebrating all of us. Kansas is home to a spectrum of differences within its people and their cultures. It is my hope, however, that this presentation has helped show that no matter what differences we have on the surface, we always have something in common on a deeper level. To "celebrate Kansas voices", then, means to celebrate and appreciate all the little things that make us different and similar--what makes us Kansans.

Created By
Junior Webb
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