Kirkpatrick back at the helm

Leslie Silverman
By Leslie Silverman
The Keystone Museum has a new director.
Sort of.
Jeanie Kirkpatrick, who was director of the museum from 2016-18 is back as the director of the turn of the 19th century building that is home to about 10,000 artifacts.
“I missed it,” Kirkpatrick says both about the building itself and about being in the museum field. 
Kirkpatrick was director at the 1881 Courthouse Museum in Custer before her most recent stint as a fossil preparer worked for Black Hills Institute of Geological Research.
Kirkpatrick was interviewed by the Keystone Area Historical Society board for about two hours before accepting the position in mid-May.
“I had a good feel that this board was going in a  direction that I felt was how I wanted the museum to go,” she said recalling that some board members had ideas that Kirkpatrick herself had but hadn’t voiced. “It was like an ‘aha ‘moment.”
Some of the things Kirkpatrick envisions long term are identifying more Carrie Ingalls sites,  making the museum a research location and getting a genealogy center on site for the many families that have moved away.
“We actually have family files” that are now in archival acid free file folders, “so they’re safe,” she said.
Kirkpratrick still sees continuing the work of the previous director, Casey Sullivan, who was most recently working on a mining exhibit. Once the details are worked out she imagines it will feel “like you’re going into a mine.”
Short term, Kirkpatrick is focused on the July 26-28 Carrie Days, including  promoting the event and aligning with the production company that is bringing in the actors. She sees the town of Keystone as a very important partner in this process. “
“It’s gonna affect the whole town,” she said.
So far this season the museum has received over 200 visitors. Most come to the museum to see its biggest asset, the Carrie Ingalls collection.
“A lot of people don't know what happened to the girls after they became adults and they moved away. Except for Laura because she was famous. And they get here and they stop at the stop sign and they look over to their left and they see that sign,” Kirkpatrick said referring to the museum sign which boasts of the Carrie collection. 
Kirkpatrick is still familiarizing herself with some of the new things at the museum including the way records are organized and the point of sale system.
“We did learn how to get into it without electricity the other day,” she said with a smile, proud that she could continue business as usual despite a power outage in town. “It’s good. It’s  able  to track our inventory. Visitors get a nice receipt and it can do reports for us.”
The museum boasts a wide variety of merchandise for sale, a “little bit for everybody,” as Kirkpatrick puts it. 
Kirkpatrick is bringing back some books that the museum has previously carried. It is also the exclusive retailer of the town flood book commemorating the 50th anniversary of that event as well as Carrie Ingalls’, “Little Newspapers on the Prairie.”
The museum shop is   running a promotion, giving a free pencil to patrons who purchase a pencil sharpener.
Kirkpatrick does virtually everything at the museum, including cleaning toilets, educating patrons, promotion, fundraising  and  giving tours. She has a small staff who assists her all but one day a week. She assists them as well and finds projects for them to do.
“I have a great staff,” Kirkpatrick said.
The museum is constantly getting donated items, including from familial estates with connections to the town.
Besides being a published author, a South Dakota Humanities Scholar, and the board president for the association of South Dakota Museums, Kirkpatrick has several degrees including both a BA and BS and an interdisciplinary  masters  degree with focuses on museum studies from Iowa State University. 
Kirkpatrick says a visit to the museum can bring back memories for those who went to a similar school.
“Some of them will come in  an actually say, ‘ it smells like my old school I went to,’” she said.
For others it is an opportunity to see what Keystone was about.
“It gives  you a little bit of everything that Keystone had to offer at one point in time, she said. “The craftsmanship of the building is just gorgeous.”
She puts it as one of the top five museums in the Black Hills.
Kirkpatrick’s position is seasonal but  hopes that she can find the funding through grants to stay year -round She imagines, for example, during the offseason taking the museum records and making them more “archival” so it’s easier for researchers.
“We recently had an author in here doing research for her book. Keystone will have a whole chapter,” she said.
This is not the first researcher, Kirkpatrick says, to use the museum records.
“There’s so much hidden history here,” she said.
Kirkpratrick says the museum is always looking for docents.
“Even if you could just put in four hours to volunteer, i’s a way to get out of the house, meet people, learn some history and have a good time,” she said.
Sarah Walker, a Keystone Area Historical Society board member, said the board is excited to have Kirkpatrick back at the museum.
“We’re looking forward to seeing the museum grow and reach a greater audience, drawing in the younger generations to appreciate history,” Walker said. “Jeanie has so much to offer the museum and we’re excited to see where she goes with it.”
The Keystone Museum Facebook page is up to date and gives the ins and outs of what is going on. It’s the quickest way to get any information out there to the public when they’re traveling, Kirkpatrick said.
The museum also has a new website, keystonehis
The museum is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. except daily with the exception of Thursday when it is closed.

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