Christopher Burnett | Staff Writer
The Frontier Army Museum opened two new exhibits within its Fort Leavenworth Gallery space this month. One features items related to the history of Sherman Army Airfield and the other has items dating from the 1900s when the Signal Corps School was on post.
Russell Ronspies, museum specialist, said the Fort Leavenworth Gallery is in the front entrance hallway of the facility and remains a favorite attraction among visitors. Exhibits are developed by the museum staff to present items and materials from the museum’s collection to the public.
“Our director, George Moore, usually establishes the primary idea and selects the topic for our exhibits,” Ronspies said. “Lue Smith, our museum technician, does all of the research. It’s a team effort and involves various individual processes. Often we each have concurrent projects going while everyone is working collectively on another.”
Smith said exhibits in the Fort Leavenworth Gallery stay in place for six months to a year. She said the creation of displays always involves each of the four staff members at some point because everyone gets involved in the proofing and editing of text copy.
“I use various credible museum industry sources during the research phase,” Smith said. “We then develop a brief narrative that contains all of the vetted information. It is important to be brief because there isn’t much space for a large amount of accompanying text in our displays.”
In addition to the accompanying historical text and photographs, the Sherman Army Airfield exhibit shows an A-11 flight helmet, circa 1945, with an accompanying A-14 oxygen mask. Military-issue flying boots and aviator gloves are also part of this presentation.
“Our research found that Sherman Army Airfield initially served as an emergency grass landing strip in 1923,” Ronspies said. “During World War II, the airfield was used extensively for training. Today, it serves military dignitaries, and Leavenworth has a joint-use-agreement with the Department of the Army that allows unrestricted civilian access.”
Ronspies said the airfield is named in honor of 1924 Command and General Staff School graduate Lt. Col. William C. Sherman. He said Sherman died in 1927 of an illness while an Air Corps instructor at CGSS.
The Signal Corps School exhibition also features historical text and photographs. The physical items include an acetylene lantern dated 1904 and an M1914 service buzzer.
Ronspies said 1905 was the first year officers studied at the U.S. Army Signal School at Fort Leavenworth. In 1913, the Army established the Enlisted Men’s Signal School on post.
“Major George Squier organized the first courses,” Ronspies said. “Among the photographs is a picture showing the first class.”
The =museum collects and preserves items used to tell the story of the Frontier Army from 1804 to 1916 and Fort Leavenworth from 1827 to the present day. Officially recognized as an Army museum in 1960, the museum preserves one of the largest collections of 19th-century military artifacts in the country.
Page 2 of 2 - The museum is free and open to the public. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. The museum is closed Sundays, Mondays and federal holidays.