KEARNEY — The former residence of the G.W. Frank family has been known by several names over the years.
Director Will Stoutamire winces a little when someone calls the residence by its former name, the Frank House.
By changing the name in 2016 to the G.W. Frank Museum of History and Culture, Stoutamire hopes to change the focus and purpose of the building.
“It signifies a change and broadening of focus,” he said in an interview in his second-floor office in the historic building on the University of Nebraska at Kearney’s West Campus. “When I arrived years ago, we were The Frank House. The entire museum was dedicated to, and focused upon, the life of George Frank. It was a house museum.”
Upon seeing the collection and learning more about the history of the building, Stoutamire realized that the house had a capability of exceeding its simple expectations.
“What I used to tell people, and it still holds true to some extent, I have the dubious privilege of being the director of arguably the worst house museum in the country,” he said. “Not because it’s bad at what it does, but because it was only a private residence for a decade. It’s been connected to the community for almost 130 years, but only a house for a decade.”
The mansion served as a sanatorium, a tuberculosis hospital and also as an apartment complex.
As a historian, Stoutamire looks for the relevance of the G.W. Frank Museum in the community.
“George Frank’s story is still very central to what we do,” he said. “But as a museum, we’re trying to become more of a museum that shows us how Kearney got to be the way it is. If you take the narrative of George Frank in isolation, you don’t really get that picture. Instead, we’re trying to focus on a more diverse narrative.”
As a goal, the museum director wants to pull the narrative…