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Chamber Connection at the Lindsborg Old Mill & Swedish Heritage Museum

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By Brenna Eller

 

LINDSBORG, Kan. — Lindsborg Old Mill & Swedish Heritage Museum Director, Lenora Lynam and Adam Pracht, Director of Marketing and Communications shared the rich history of the museum and mill last Thursday at the Chamber Connection and gave information, current museum projects, the grants recently received and what they are being used for, and the many annual events held on the museum grounds, such as the upcoming Svensk Hyllningsfest on Oct. 13 and 14. 

The property sits on 15 acres, and includes the museum, the Restored 1898 Flour Mill, the Heritage Square Complex (8 historic buildings), the 1904 World’s Fair Swedish Pavilion, and across the river is a campground that people can use, with 24 electrical hookups. 

From 1962 to 2021 the museum was called the McPherson County Museum. In 2021, the museum transitioned to become a private non-profit and changed its name to the Lindsborg Old Mill and Swedish Heritage Museum.

The museum has a Board of Directors: Kirsten Bruce (President), Michael Chambers (Vice-President, Secretary), Trevor Whitaker (Treasurer), Les Sperling, Collin Carlson, Anna Erickson, Rachel Norlin, and Becky Anderson.

Lynam said they did have a Community Development Director, Caroline de Filippis who handled memberships and grant writing, but now they are down to just herself and Pracht as the only full-time staff members at the museum.

“Caroline’s husband took a new position in Kansas City,” Lynam said. “She is still working for us remotely and still managing the grants. We are looking at hiring another position, but we’re still not certain what that position is going to be.”

The museum has one intern from Bethany College and one part-time employee who does custodian work as well.

“Caroline was very instrumental in pulling our strategic plan together,” Lynam said. “She was amazing.”

Some strategic goals for the museum are growing its community, prioritizing the building, cultural heritage, diversified programming, and organizational stability.

Looking ahead, an objective for the museum in 2025 is to offer more events and exhibitions.

“Our big event here at the museum is Millfest,” Lynam said. “That is when we turn on our Flour Mill.”

Millfest also has exhibits on Heritage Square at the schoolhouse and in the Swedish Pavilion there is usually a demonstration going on or dancing. They also have Swedish dancers and live music, with a food truck outside.

Pracht added to Lynam’s praise about de Filippis, saying that when it came to getting grants for the museum, she got every single one that she applied for.

Annual Events at the museum:

  • Millfest (First Saturday in May)
  • Midsummer (Third Saturday of June)
  • Hyllningsfest (October 13 -14)
  • Heritage Christmas (second Saturday in December)
  • Genealogy Workshops (next one on Oct. 21)
    – Register through website

The museum hosted two exhibitions in the past year. One was from a speaker sponsored by Humanities Kansas who shared about World’s Fair Remnants in Kansas since the Swedish Pavilion came from the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis.

Exhibit on “Theodore Roosevelt’s Life Story in his Written Words”

“Theodore Roosevelt was actually in Lindsborg on two different occasions. He made stops here while he was campaigning, Lynam said. “He was also good friends with the President of Bethany College Carl Aaron Swensson. Roosevelt even made a stop at the Swedish Pavilion when it was in St. Louis at the World’s Fair, and we have pictures of him on the front steps of the Swedish Pavilion, which is really cool.”

Lynam said the museum partners with the Kansas State University milling department and that two of their faculty and four students were able to help with the mill tour during Millfest.

The Land Institue and Humanities Kansas are also partners of the museum.

“Our next objective is to increase our attendance by 133 percent,” Lynam said. “We believe we can do this.”

On average the museum sees about 6,000 visitors each year and they are hoping to have around 8,000 this year. The museum aims to increase their revenue by 55 percent between the gift shop and online shop and is wanting to increase their overall membership by 190 percent. When the museum became a non-profit, they didn’t have memberships, and it is still relatively new to the community. 

There is also a new endowment goal of $1 million, which they believe they can make happen and plan to kick off promotions for during Hyllningsfest. 

Since last year, the museum has brought in $550,660 through grants. 

“A big part of that is Caroline, who was our Grants Manager,” Pracht said. “She applied for 11 grants and got 11 grants.”

Pracht said her ability to get the museum grants was like batting 1.000 in baseball, saying she always did what most would think was impossible. 

Current Grant Projects:

  • $61,000 Water Mitigation/Guttering Project (Dean Coughenour Trust)
  • $109,000 Upper Exterior Walls – (Kansas State Historical Society) Upper Wall Tuckpointing, Repainting sign, and other exterior work. 
  • $15,000 Front Porch Repair (Osher Foundation)
  • $47,000 Pavilion Repainting (David Nutt Grant – MCCF)
  • $116,000 Windows Replacement – (David Nutt Grant – MCCF) Project on hold because they have to figure out what is going on with the building walls and make sure the structure is ok before windows are put in.

Lynam said the museum is currently doing a new photo project with the McPherson Public Library that is near and dear to her heart.

Photo Database Lindsborg old mill pic

“If you’re familiar with the McPherson library website, they have a photo album on their website, which is awesome and I’ve always wanted to do something similar,” Lynam said. “Create an image database so that if somebody comes to me and says, ‘Do you have a picture of this?’ I can say, ‘yes we do,’ and I don’t have to go through everything to try to find it.”

Lynam said the intern working at the museum has been scanning photographs and the library has been very helpful with their knowledge about the project. It hasn’t been decided yet what platform the photos will be displayed on, but Lynam thinks it might be Flickr. 

Since they only turn the Flour Mill on once a year, the Augmented Reality Tour, is a way that the museum is looking into giving guests a way to tour the mill in motion, virtually stepping into the room and having a virtual guide explain the history while on the tour. 

“This is the one that has been very near and dear to my heart for the last year,” Pracht said. “The coolest feature of this mill is that it still runs and it’s 125 years old, but for preservation reasons we can only turn it on once a year, which means that it’s approximately one percent of the year where we can show off the coolest part of our museum.” 

At the last Millfest, Pracht borrowed a 360 video and photo camera from the Lindsborg Convention Visitors Bureau and got a 360 video throughout the entire mill. The museum is also contracted with a company called Wintor, which has a technology that uses virtual features that can give a virtual tour guide in the space you’re in.

For more information about the Lindsborg Old Mill & Swedish Heritage Museum, you can go to their website at www.oldmillmuseum.org. The museum is located at 120 E. Mill St. in Lindsborg, Kan.