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Update: Pottawatomie County Historical Society's new museum nearing completion

Galen Hawes

The Pottawatomie Historical Society and Museum has finished the interior construction on the new museum, but several projects are still in the works before the facility can be opened.

The museum is named after Paul and Ann Milburn because of the Paul M.Milburn foundation’s endowment fund matching this year’s historical society fundraising

The Paul and Ann Milburn Center is located at 207 N. Minnesota.

Before his passing, Paul Milburn helped the historical society by matching a lump sum to start on the new museum.

He then left money in the Paul M. Milburn Foundation fund held by the Oklahoma City Committee Foundation for the historical society to continue to receive matched funds.

The Santa Fe Depot at 614 E. Main St. will become a railroad and transportation museum once they install a new roof and move other historical items to the new museum location.

The museum has so much history that it has outgrown its space and the brick pavers in the parking lot were saved from the original 1905 Shawnee Main Street.

The historical society has built a whole new building to expand the museum and house some of the priceless artifacts forced to sit in storage, unseen by the public.

“Many of the historical items we have will be moved over to the new location such as the histories of the Oil & Gas Industry, the Military, Agriculture, and the Indian Tribes,” said Ken Landry, Museum Director.

In the new museum, the historical society plans to include an entire kids’ area where children can play around in a model train with engine and caboose, as well as climb about a building modeled after a bank.

“We will be adding small historical replicas of local businesses, a replica of a local church and school and QR codes to scan that will direct visitors to informational YouTube videos,” said Landry. “We will be updating the centerpiece of Shawnee Downtown from 1942 that will be replaced by a 1960’s version.”

The historical society plans to offer field trip opportunities for every school in Pottawatomie County.

“We plan to build fencing to make it easier for students to stay safe during field trips to the museum,” said Landry.

Due to the generous contributions from the Paul M. Milburn Foundation fund and the City of Shawnee Commissioners contract agreement, the historical society currently has $2 million invested in the Paul and Ann Milburn Center.

In March, the city signed a contract stating that they will compensate the museum financially — in total, $300,000 spread over a period of five years.

The funding was to be given in various amounts annually, starting with the one-time lump sum payment of $150,000 that was received upon execution of the agreement; an annual fee of $50,000 received at the end of March, 2020; an annual fee of $40,000 due by March 31, 2021; an annual fee of $30,000 due by March 31, 2022; an annual fee of $20,000 due by March 31, 2023; an annual fee of $10,000 due by March 31, 2024.

After March 31, 2024, no annual fee shall be due by the city to the museum.

Although the Paul M. Milburn Foundation fund and the City of Shawnee Commissioners have helped tremendously, Landry said the Historical Society is still in need of grants or donations to provide for exterior landscaping, outside fencing around the old and new museums, the new roof for the Santa Fe Depot, and to help in building small replicas of historical places in the county.

The Santa Fe Depot museum is open to visitors, but the newest building of The Pottawatomie County Museum and Historical Society is not yet open, but plans are ongoing to work toward raising the money to make its opening possible.

The historical society is always raising money and has been renting out the Sarah Dudley Conference center in the museum building at $100 for a half day and $200 for a full day to bring in revenue. The conference center stays booked, Landry said.

If approved by the county firefighters, the Pottawatomie Historical Society and Museum would like to open a third museum at 527 E. Main as a museum for the history of the county firefighters.

To make a donation, purchase a memorial brick, or for more information about the Pottawatomie County Museum and the Paul and Ann Milburn Center, visit www.pottcountymuseum.org or call (405) 275-8412.