Historical society gets new director

Family Living Editor

Register/Jenelle Johnson
Jeff Kluever assumed the duties of director of the Allen County Historical Society on Jan. 2.

Jeff Kluever can barely contain his enthusiasm when he talks about his new position as director of the Allen County Historical Society and its museums. He began work Jan. 2.
The 26-year-old, who has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history, is eager to share his interest in preserving the past.
Prior to coming to Iola, Kluever worked as a graduate assistant and football coach at Carroll University in Waukesha, Wis.
“I enjoyed coaching, but my true passion is history. When I saw Iola was looking for a director for its historical society I didn’t think twice about sending my resume,” he said.
Originally from Norwalk, Iowa, Kluever was somewhat familiar with Kansas because his father had attended the University of Kansas, but he said, “I had never heard of Iola until I saw its need for a museum director.”
Norwalk has a rich heritage but no museum to preserve it for future generations, Kluever said, unlike Iola’s historical society which has five buildings and four museums.
“As I drove down U.S. 169 I kept seeing signs for museums in Iola, Humboldt and Chanute. It was so impressive seeing how invested the people of southeast Kansas are in their history,” he said.
Kluever said transitioning into the position of director has been made easier with the help of former director Clyde Toland, docents and volunteers at the museum.
“I have asked several of the docents to give me tours of the museums. As I listened to them talk I could hear the pride in their voices as they talked about Iola’s history and I was fascinated when several of the docents knew the people who were featured in the displays,” he said.
Kluever said he is planning to develop educational programs he can present in area classrooms. With tight budgets, classes may not be able to visit the museums but he can take a little bit of the museums to the classrooms.
“I would like to touch on topics such as the Civil War or civil rights as they were experienced in Allen County. I want the students to learn about early life in Iola and the surrounding area,” he said.
Preparing programs for the schools will not only enrich students’ knowledge of Allen County, but also help Kluever learn more about the county’s history, he said.