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Fort Belknap revitalization project continues growth with installations

New arbor structure, museum cabinetry installed

Fort Belknap has finished installing display cabinets for its museum and building a new structure for the historic grape arbor which was pruned in January.

Fort Belknap Director Jim Hammond said he hopes the new display cases, which were installed at a cost of $28,000, and a redesign of the museum will help the building flow better and feature more military history.

“Everything throughout the museum is going to look the same, same type of wood, so it is all matching and that way you don’t have different type display cases,” Hammond said. “A lot of people don’t think about it, but if you are looking museum psychology it(different display cases) is tricky to the brain. You can get past it, but at the same time it looks kind of cluttered, we want to have it smooth so you are not focused on the cases at all, you are focused on what is inside the cases.”

The fort director said the idea for a redesign of the museum came after class of elementary students from the Dallas area came for a visit.

“They brought 10 to 15 kids, three years ago, out here,” Hammond said. “One of those little kids asked ‘why would anybody live all the way out here?’ I got to thinking about it and we really don’t have anything why Fort Belknap (is here), and the whole reason that Graham is here is because of the fort.”

He said the new display cases will be used as a timeline starting with an introduction to the American Indians and their lives before the settlers arrived. Then it will move into the Indians contact with the settlers and why the settlers chose the location of Fort Belknap. Then it will transition into uniforms which were donated by Chris Hunnewell last year that are currently not on display.

“Uniforms changed quite a bit in the 1850s,” the fort director said. “So, what I am going to do is I am going to tell the chronological history of Fort Belknap from 1851 to 1867 using those uniforms. The uniforms aren’t the story, but they help tell the story. So, in 1851 we’ll show what soldiers came here, where they came from, how Fort Belknap replaced Fort Worth because of Westward Expansion and then other troops that  were brought in and why those troops were needed.”

He said the cases will also include some history from the Civil War and the era after it. The new area will also include the story of American Indian reservations and American Indian agents because there is not a place in the state which does that, according to Hammond.

Next to the display cases, Hammond said they will set up a wedge tent with a Marcy cot, uniform and other items soldiers had during their time in the fort.

“Kids can go in there and actually manipulate it, put it on and stuff like that,” he said. “That’s kind of the idea is to get it a little bit more interactive so that way kids understand it. Because today to teach kids it has to be tangible, everything is at their fingertips for them to learn. We want to make sure that whenever kids come out they are just as interested in the museum as the adults are.”

Hammond said the new display cases and timeline will help lead visitors into the existing artifacts the museum currently has.

“What we will do with these artifacts is put them in chronological order to tell the development of the county after it was settled and the importance of things that happened here,’ he said. “I am going to do that, with the settlement of the county, by with some of the prominent families that were here and they will have their own little section with their name.”

The director is looking to help relocate some artifacts which will  not belong in the new design/criteria of the museum including a dentist chair from Graham.

“It’s a fabulous piece, but it is in the wrong place,” Hammond said. “It needs to be on display in Graham and we will keep it here until we can find somebody that will put it on display in Graham. But, there are a few artifacts, not a lot really, that don’t have anything to do with Young County. There are some that deal with Young County, that more deal with Graham than they do Fort Belknap and we can implement some of those, but there are some things in the museum that don’t have anything do with even the state of Texas. Items like that we will find a place for them.”

Hammond said he is hoping to have the new display cases set up for Fort Belknap Days which take place on Oct. 25 and 26.

For the rest of the story, see the Saturday, Oct. 19 edition of The Graham Leader.

The Graham Leader

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