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Ground broken for new Haskell cultural center

LAWRENCE, Kan. - A recent groundbreaking ceremony at Haskell Indian Nations University culminated thousands of hours of planning. The new cultural center will house the hundreds of thousands of archival materials and photographs of Haskell and its history.

Records and photographs were nearly lost, but thanks to archivist Bobbi Rahder and Haskell alumni, the rich history of the university will be saved for future generations.

Rahder has worked for several years with volunteers to gather materials pertaining to the history of the institution. Her goal was to get the material into one place where it could be accessed easily and preserved. The real problem, she said, was trying to find it all.

Rahder said that some historical documents were archived by the government. Employees had taken other material when they retired and still more was thrown away because employees didn't know what to do with it.

In one instance, Martha Houle, an alumna now a Haskell regent, walked past a dumpster filled with historical pictures which had simply been thrown out. Houle dug through the trash and rescued the photographs, which included pictures of baseball and football teams and candid pictures of everyday student life in the early part of the century.

The new cultural center will become a depository and research center, but to make sure the collection is as complete as possible, Rahder is asking everyone in Indian country to help.

"Our collection really isn't very complete at all. Because Haskell has never really had a facility to accept these things before."

Rahder said some alumni have given their collections to other museums and still others just have boxes of old pictures. Of particular interest are Haskell veterans who served during any of the wars because a veterans memorial is planned as part of the cultural center.

"Other institutions have a more complete collection than we do," Rahder said sadly.

Alumni and employees will help construction with an old-fashioned barn-raising when the cyprus logs, donated by B. Keeton of Florida arrive. The center is expected to be finished by October 2001.

"This will be a chance for us to build a building with environmental control for all of the museum and historical documents here at Haskell," Rahder said.

If all goes well, and the finished cultural center can prove to the government archives office it can provide proper document storage, more documents may be returned by the government.

The cultural center will face the historic Haskell Arch and the park-like setting around the center will have fountains and benches and the proposed veterans memorial. It will have classrooms for the Haskell Indian Studies Program, and Rahder believes it can become one of the premiere Native American history research centers in the nation. Students will have a rare opportunity learning to work with the archives rather than just reading about history.

However, it will not be just a document depository. "We can use it to display the collections and even have traveling exhibitions. We will have everything centralized," Rahder said.

"We're looking for anything that can help us tell Haskell's story. Anyone who has programs or brochures or photographs or yearbooks or anything from their Haskell years and ... would like a good place to store them, we can use them."

Donations for the center are helping defray the cost, but more money is needed along with materials and labor.

Anyone wishing to offer help should contact: Haskell Library, attn: Bobbi Rahder, 155 Indian Avenue, Lawrence KS 66046