The National Frontier Trails Museum recently received certification to perform interpretive work on the Mormon Pioneer Trail, making it the fifth trail certification of its kind for the 20-year-old museum.

The National Frontier Trails Museum recently received certification to perform interpretive work on the Mormon Pioneer Trail, making it the fifth trail certification of its kind for the 20-year-old museum.


That’s not too bad, the museum’s top leader said, considering Independence wasn’t even officially part of the Mormon Pioneer Trail. The trail extended from Nauvoo, Ill., across southern Iowa and then westward toward the establishment of Salt Lake City.


“It’s another unique trail because people were going West for religious freedom as opposed to land or free trade,” said John Mark Lambertson, the museum’s director and archivist for 17 years. “It’s quite a feather in our cap. There is, of course, significant Mormon history related to Independence, but that national trail actually does not go through Independence.”


The U.S. National Park Service Mormon Pioneer Trail certification joins the museum’s four others, which Independence was officially a part of – the Santa Fe, Oregon, California trails and the Lewis and Clark Heritage Trail. The National Frontier Trails Museum is the only U.S. museum that has five such certifications on national historic trails, Lambertson said.


He said the museum had already included Mormon Pioneer Trail interpretive work through its orientation film, a separate film on the Mormon Battalion and an exhibit panel, as well as collecting materials and artifacts pertaining to the Mormon experience in the museum’s library.


In a little more than two months, the National Frontier Trails Museum will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a weekend celebration. On April 10, the museum will provide free admission for Independence residents. Invitations also will be mailed to a private reception on April 11 for city government leaders, past employees, volunteers and residents who were instrumental in the museum’s creation.


“It’s going to be a matter of celebrating and recognizing all of the advancement and contribution that the museum has been making to the city and to the region,” said Lambertson, who added the museum experiences visitors annually from all 50 U.S. states and about 35 different countries. “It’s one of the major front doors from visitors all over the world to the city of Independence, along with the Truman Presidential Library.” 


Last summer, museum officials had briefly mentioned a possible expansion, but because of the economic downturn and decline in city revenue, any expansion plans are on indefinite hold, Lambertson said.