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JCCC Stories

On the ‘trail’ of history

December 3, 2016

Student enjoys unique internship, uncovering past in JCCC archives

Johnson County Community College alumna Sarah Patton wanted a history internship that was unlike any other. She found it researching for the Indian Creek Trail Interpretive Signage Project.

The project is a series of outdoor exhibit panels to be placed along the 10-mile Overland Park segment of the Indian Creek Trail, which stretches from Mission Road on the east to Pflumm Road on the west.

Large acrylic panels measuring 3 feet by 5 feet – rectangles about as large as a coffee table – contain images, maps, and text that explain how each nearby intersecting street got its name.

Henry Fortunato, founder of Sunflower Republic LLC, worked with the support of the Johnson County Museum to develop the panels. As project director, he wanted a way for people to learn more about their local history and to enjoy the regional trail system.

Fortunato walked across Kansas in 2014, picking up regional history along the way, and he wanted to share a similar experience on a local level, he said.

Patton’s role

As an intern for the signage project, it was Patton’s job to dig through the college’s archives, working with JCCC archivist Anita Gordon-Gilmore, to research the one panel addressing the history of College Boulevard and Johnson County Community College.

“Henry wanted me to find the photos he’d need to tell the (JCCC) story,” she said.

On the third floor of the Billington Library are two rooms that comprise the JCCC archives. With some searching, she found three original bonds from the bond sale that made JCCC possible, as well as a pro-college campaign sign from 1968 that says, “Build Johnson County/Vote Yes June 3.”

Henry FortunatoPatton said she loves digging through “primary source documents,” which are, as the name implies, the original materials relating to an idea or an event, and not just a recounting from someone else’s writing.

In some cases, locating the primary source document takes some detective work. For example, Patton said, she found a photo of Virginia Krebs, the first employee of JCCC, in a booth commemorating the college’s origins.

In the photo were the aforementioned original bonds. Patton said she hadn’t even noticed them, but Fortunato did. He alerted her and asked her to very carefully go through Krebs’ materials, donated to the JCCC archives, to see if she could find them. Patton did, once she knew what she was looking for, and now that image of the bond is on the panel.

“I would have never thought to look for those bonds just because of that photo,” Patton said. “That’s where Henry has been very helpful, in teaching me to think like a historian.”

Love of history

Patton’s love of history began her junior year of high school in California. Her history teacher took her work seriously and obviously loved history, Patton said.

Her parents moved to Kansas immediately after she graduated high school, and Patton was less than thrilled. She signed up at Johnson County Community College as a way to save money on tuition and get her bearings in a new community.

Her internship, sponsored by the Kansas Studies Institute at JCCC with support from the JCCC Foundation, changed her mind about her new state. “I thought Kansas was going to be the most boring place, but it ended up being fun,” she said.

Signs for the Indian Creek Trail Interpretive Signage Project are expected to be installed in spring 2017.

Visit the history department web page to learn more about classes and internship opportunities within the history department at JCCC, and view the Kansas Studies Institute web page for information about its mission and upcoming programs.

Image of a trail sign