As the general public got to see last week for the first time since he took over, Perry Schuckman is a perfect choice to be the new Executive Director of the Kansas Oil Museum in El Dorado.
Schuckman, who has one of his two Master’s Degrees in history, brings an enthusiasm and excitement to the museum, which hosted a meet-and-greet Tuesday prior to the opening of the summer’s first exhibit. He has a passion for the museum, and he already has made plans to increase the museum’s visibility and involvement with the community, as well as extend the museum’s reach on a broader scale. Kelsey Sundgren, a board member and former Board Chair for the museum, sees a lot of potential endeavors with Schuckman at the helm.
“We are looking forward to seeing Perry move our museum towards being the regional attraction it has all of the potential to be,” Sundgren said. “We hope to increase our number of interactive exhibits, improve our outreach and educational programs, host even more activities for kids and families, and continue to educate our visitors about local and regional history in increasingly fun and innovative ways. Our new executive director has all of the criteria to make these goals a reality, and I can't wait to see what the future brings for KOM with Perry leading the way.”
Schuckman and Sundgren had the tough job of paying respects to former board member Bill Johnson, who recently passed away. Schuckman will plant the Bill Johnson Victory Garden in his honor.
At the meet-and-greet, Schuckman made a wonderful first impression with the crowd and introduced his employees, both new and returning. A smart move he made was hiring Ardath Lawson, a local history buff who is highly knowledgable about El Dorado and Butler County history, to be the full-time curator. She also has plenty of creativity. She launched the first new exhibit under Schuckman called “Made for Trade,” an impressive collection and arrangement of food and clothing items and other stuff that was a part of the El Dorado commercial industry in the late 1800s through the early 1900s. The focus was on stores and how El Dorado thrived even before the big oil boom really launched the town.
In his short time as director, he’s already come across a wide variety of fellow historical enthusiasts. He’s already had people from Switzerland, Tanzania and Malaysia drop by for visits after they saw the sign while driving down the turnpike, Schuckman wants to increase admissions both locally, but also in a way that reaches more visitors, too.
Another day, he had a wife and her husband from Louisiana come to track down their great-great-great grandfather, who settled in the El Dorado area back in the 1870s. Schuckman said that one of his goals is getting old historical documents or articles digitized to help make requests to dig into history a lot easier. He already has started to put together Country Heavy Metal, an event coming in September that will feature 100-plus digitized photos thanks to a grant he worked hard to get for the museum.
Raising money, though, will be his biggest challenge. He has an impressive background in non-profit organizations. He’s opened homeless shelters, medical clinics and, at one point, ran the Kansas Non-Profit Chamber. So he’s definitely stepping into a different side of business.
“This is kind of a nice change in my non-profit career,” Schuckman said.
Schuckman said he’s a firm believer in the old adage “If you build it, they will come.” He would like to see the museum expand some day, which will allow the museum to carry and display more exhibits, which should increase traffic and admissions.
Schuckman also has planned around several special events. The museum will host an ice cream social on June 17, which will include a Father’s Day theme this year that will include three-legged races and other such fun activities. He also has plans for a solar eclipse event at 11 a.m. Aug. 21 as he and Lawson will have a presentation in connection with the history of solar eclipses. A solar eclipse of this magnitude may be the only chance a lot of people get to even see one.
“Perry is innovative, out-going, energetic and passionate. He has a very impressive background in non-profit leadership and is eager to become a part of the El Dorado community. Perry has a variety of ideas for improving our visitor experience at KOM as well as an innate ability to connect with people. He knows that in today's world, we need to take the museum to the people in addition to inviting them to come to us. Perry enjoys being out in the community, meeting people, and sharing our museum's story,” Sundgren said.