Heritage and LegacyJan 17, 2014 03:46PM ● By Lisa Drake
Vern Raven is not content to just sit back and enjoy his golden years.
For the past five years, the 75-year-old Raven has been waking up each morning Tuesday through Saturday and heading down to the Mansfield Historical Museum & Heritage Center, where he oversees the day-to-day operations of the museum.
“I’ve always had an interest in history,” says Raven, the center’s official museum specialist. “And I love being able to work in an active museum.” He says his job also gives him the opportunity “to meet lots of people in our community.” But as you might guess, there’s more to Raven’s story.
Raven grew up in Kansas where he says his parents taught him that “Nothing comes for free” and to, “Prepare yourself and do the best you can and learn to work with other people.” He went on to graduate from Kansas State University with a degree in industrial engineering before first going to work for Boeing in Seattle. But it was a job offer later on at Texas Instruments that brought him to the Lone Star State.
“I had a most rewarding career at Texas Instruments, Defense Systems in the area of material management, and then later becoming logistics operations manager,” he says of his years there. He says Texas Instruments was advanced in technology and they were in the forefront in all areas of business operations, promoting that in business and professional leadership. “I was a registered professional engineer for the state of Texas for about 30 years before I retired,” he says.
Along the way, he got married, raised children and was set to enjoy retirement. That’s when he began volunteering at the museum in downtown Mansfield. “I started out as a volunteer and when the curator left I applied for the job and they hired me,” he says. Today he is the only paid employee and relies on volunteers to keep things operating at the museum.
The Mansfield Historical Society officially began in 1970 in order to collect, investigate and preserve the richness of the city’s southern heritage, specifically genealogical, biographical and historical data about the Mansfield community and its residents. The society oversees the operations of the museum and heritage center. The organization has always been housed in the McKnight Building, which the group acquired from the city in 1997. They spent the next few years renovating the building in downtown Mansfield. The last major renovation was in 2006.
“The museum presents the history of the Mansfield area,” says Raven.” The museum offers a wealth of photos, artifacts and documented history of Mansfield and its residents.” He goes on to explain how the museum uses carefully created display boards and other presentation methods to describe businesses, physicians, education, religious heritage, military and other kinds of relevant history.
“All artifacts are original and relative to the time and place, so what you see is the original document or artifact,” he says. The museum routinely changes exhibits and displays and adds artifacts that are continuing to be received even today.
Tours and events are a part of the daily routine that is overseen by Raven. He says he also spends time assisting people with genealogy research, receiving photos and artifacts, recording them through documentation and photographing when necessary. Though he’s quick to point out there’s no typical day around here.
“Some days there are only a few people who come in and others we are very busy,” he says. “We host tours for scouts, schools, businesses and special events. When there are events downtown such as festivals or parades, we may have hundreds of visitors.” He estimates the museum has about 5,000 visitors every year.
Raven says the museum would love to grow and expand but that remains somewhat of a challenge. “We need to expand but getting additional property or space is costly,” he says. “We are a non-profit organization so funding for something like that is difficult to come by.” The extra room would help with displays and in storage.
In the meantime, Raven is always eager to entertain people interested in joining the Mansfield Historical Society or volunteering at the museum. “We are always looking for new members interested in local history who can become involved with the Mansfield Historical Society and the museum at different levels of participation,” he says.
It’s easy to see that Raven is proud of the Mansfield Historical Society and the museum. He believes it’s an integral part of the community. “It is important for a community to be proud of its heritage and preserve it for its future generations. One way to do that is through a historical museum.”
With the Mansfield Historical Society and people like Vern Raven involved, it’s a sure bet that future generations will know all about Mansfield.
The Mansfield Historical Society
Board of Directors
Marilyn Gerloff, President/Treasurer
Doris Maxwell, Secretary
Johnny Bratton, Vice President
Edna Phillips, Director
Faye Rydell, Director
Kathryn Howard, Director
What you can learn more about in the Mansfield Historical Museum:
Mansfield Area Veterans
Historic Downtown Mansfield
Settlers and Pioneers
Railroad Comes to Mansfield
Growth of Mansfield