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New Miners Hall exhibit focuses on Belgian heritage

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FRANKLIN, Kan. — With a new season comes a new quarterly exhibit for Miners Hall Museum. Starting today and continuing until Dec. 27, the museum will feature displays containing information about Belgian heritage in Southeast Kansas.  

The host of the overall exhibit is Heather Jacquinet, systems management assistant for Southeast Kansas Community Action Program (SEK-CAP), whose family came to the United States from Belgium in 1905. The exhibit contains documents, family stories and photos, as well as items typically found in a Belgian home that Jacquinet has curated for the museum. 

One of the items on display is a set of earrings along with the story of a woman, Mary Mahy, who immigrated from Antwerp, Belgium to the United States in 1886. Before the journey, Mahy’s father hollowed out the bottom of her shoe to store the earrings so that they would not be lost or stolen. This is one of the many stories and artifacts that will be on display.  

The museum will also hold three themed programs starting with its first, “Belgian Holiday Traditions,” on Sunday, Oct. 23. This presentation will be led by Jacquinet, who will highlight holiday traditions and celebrations in Belgian culture.  

The second program, “Tit for Tat – The Art of Tat and Lacemaking,” will be held Sunday, Nov. 6 and will feature lessons about the art of tatting, which involves knotting or looping thread to make lace. Some examples of tatting will be on display for patrons to view as well.  

“I’m Belgian — Just like the Waffles” will be the final program, and will be held Sunday, Dec. 11. During this presentation, Jacquinet will be demonstrating how to make authentic Belgian waffle cookies from a recipe brought over from Belgium in 1905.  

Miners Hall Museum Office Clerk Susan Bestor has let the museum borrow a few of her family’s items and photographs to display. Bestor said her grandmother was from Belgium, but that she didn’t really talk about it or teach her about the culture. She said she has enjoyed learning more about Belgium.  

Miners Hall Museum Trustee Phyllis Bitner said that the museum likes to use the fourth quarter of the year to feature information about the heritage of one of the countries that the miners in the area came from. She said not a lot of people know much about the countries where their ancestors are from.  

“It’s always interesting to learn new things about that country,” Bitner said.  

Miners Hall Museum, 701, S. Broadway, Franklin, is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. The museum doors will open at 1:45 p.m. Sundays for the programs on Oct. 23, Nov. 6, and Dec. 11, and will begin at 2 p.m. Admission is free and the museum invites the public to learn about the families who emigrated from Belgium and settled in Southeast Kansas. Anyone who may have artifacts, photos, stories, or memorabilia of Belgian ancestors that they are willing to loan to the museum during the exhibit can contact the museum at 620-347-4220.

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