The Allen County Historical Society is home to quite a few notable people: Major General Frederick Funston, Miss America 1968 Debra Barnes and now Kurtis Russell.
Russell, the new Allen County Historical Society director and museum curator, started last week and hopes to see more visitors at the museums.
The Bonner Springs native graduated from Emporia State University in 2010 with a degree in U.S. history.
“I always thought history was an interesting topic in school,” Russell said.
He enjoyed studying events in history and seeing how they would appear again.
“History does repeat itself,” he said.
The idea of being confined in a classroom teaching history was never Russell’s cup of tea. He enjoys working with artifacts and having conversations with people, not giving lectures.
“I will honestly admit history is a boring subject and I want to make it as fun as possible. Otherwise it’s just a bunch of dates and numbers,” Russell said.
This is Russell’s first full-time position in a museum but his resume is saturated with museum experience. He has worked at the Lenexa Historical Society, Wyandotte County Historical Museum and did work at the Shawnee Indian Mission and Grinter Place with the Kansas Historical Society.
The 27-year-old wanted to continue his career in Kansas and said he thought Iola would be a good place to get his feet wet as a museum director.
When he’s not inside a museum he likes to be outdoors, hunting or fishing. He also likes to cook and make sausage or jerky. His football team of choice is the Oakland Raiders.
Last fall he witnessed his favorite baseball team make history. Russell attended the wild card game that led the Kansas City Royals to the World Series.
“I’m a big Royals fan,” he said. “I live at the Kauffman (Stadium). It was amazing.”
AS FOR the Historical Society, Russell would like to get Allen County youth more involved with history.
“I want to close the generation gap,” he said. “Many people who attend museums are older and if kids come, it’s usually because they are brought in by their grandparents.”
To increase interest in Allen County history, Russell plans to get more involved in area school districts with history trunks that have different topics.
He has created a Twitter account for the historical society and hopes to create an Instagram account with exciting photos, too.
“I’ve created fun games on our Facebook page and I’m going to have us be more active on there,” he said.
Russell said the history entertainment will continue during museum tours but gave a lighthearted warning.
“I will tell jokes,” he said.
Hours of operation at the Allen County Historical Society are 12:30-4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.