OPINION

It's time to reopen the Trails Museum in Independence

The Examiner

Independence City Council Member Karen DeLuccie is pursuing a good idea in pushing for the reopening of the National Frontier Trails Museum sometime this year.  

The museum, owned and run by the city, is on Pacific Avenue a few blocks south of the Square and across from the Bingham-Waggoner Estate. It’s a treasure. It tells the stories of the Santa Fe, California and Oregon trails, all of which originated or passed through Independence, plus the stories of the Mormon Trail and the 1804-06 journey of Lewis and Clark.  

The museum has run into a bit of quite bad luck. First, the pandemic closed just about all museums everywhere early in 2020. Shortly before that, the Trails Museum also had a couple of directors depart. City officials, needing to get the museum staffed up again in addition to working out all the protocols needed to welcome the public back, suggested letting it go until the end of the year, which at first blush sounded disappointing put probably reasonable. 

But DeLuccie is right. This is a need now, and if the city can reallocate the money, it should press ahead. She’s made suggestions about where the find the money, and the City Council could vote on the idea later this month. It might just be for three or four days a week, but that’s a start. 

This is about a lot more than attracting tourists and their money, important as that is. This community has a rich history and thankfully has a variety of ways to tell those stories. For instance, the Truman Home and the expanded, renovated Truman Library hopefully will open soon. It’s important that the city demonstrate its commitment to telling these stories. 

The stories mean a lot. They tell us where we come from and who we are. We can learn from the triumphs and mistakes of others, and if we listen carefully, voices from the past can help guide our way forward. Heaven knows society today pays a steep price for being so heedless of the lessons of the past. 

Better days are ahead. These museums will reopen. Let’s get going.