When the first hunters from Asia crossed the land bridge to Alaska 11,000 years ago or earlier, and eventually spread across North America, those pioneering groups of nomads were driven by many of the same hopes and aspirations that motivate us today. Spears and stone tools in hand, they sought greater security and better ways of life for themselves and their families.

When the Native Americans who descended from those first immigrants built a network of cultures across the sweeping plains where we live today, as well as the deserts, coasts and mountains of the future United States, they too shared the common needs for cooperation and community that still define much of our society in the 21st century.

And when C.J. Jones, John Stevens, William and James Fulton filed on four adjacent southwest Kansas homesteads here in the 1870s, their founding endeavors led to a place that would come to be called Garden City, where early-day residents and later-day immigrants alike would find common ground in the desire to earn their livings, create homes, establish commerce, educate their children, follow their chosen beliefs and pass along a legacy to generations that would follow.

These connections between people, whether one or 100 centuries apart, represent a continuing character in the human spirit a character noted again and again in the ongoing record that we refer to as history.

More than objects to view

While I have been on board as director of the Finney County Historical Society just 10 weeks, I have already discovered the importance of preserving the past for our community and our region, because doing so offers a powerful form of enlightenment for the future.

The FCHS is an organization of people who believe in these connections, and the Finney County Historical Museum embodies a major portion of the organization's mission. As the new director, I have also discovered that our museum is more than just a place to look at objects from days gone by. We are:

* An exhibition center

* An archive for historical records and artifacts

* A unique shopping destination

* A research library and reference center

* A venue for events and activities

* A resource for education

As an exhibition center, with current display hours of 1 to 5 p.m. seven days each week, we offer visitors a glimpse into the various eras of immigration that have made Finney County what it is today from those nomadic hunters thousands of years ago to the workers who support the region's present beef packing economy.

Admission is free, and our galleries also illuminate the early-day settlement of the community, invite you to celebrate Kansas, help you take stock in Finney County, give you a unique view of the historic Windsor Hotel and illustrate the lives of the Plains Indians.

You also can visit the museum to:

* Re-live many of the community productions that have given spectacle and color to Finney County's theatrical life, now in our temporary gallery

* Tour the 1884 home of Garden City pioneers William and Luticia Fulton

* Try a seat in the one-room Pleasant Valley School on our grounds.

Effective May 28, by the way, our hours will expand to 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, as well as 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays.

Making connections

As an archive, we maintain an estimated 100,000 artifacts; not to mention thousands of records, documents and photos in the Leola Howard Blanchard Library, a place for research on everything from genealogy to early-day development.

As a shopping destination, the Museum Store inside our building offers gift shop ambiance, spiced with a growing collection of hand-crafts, books, artwork, jewelry, souvenirs and memorabilia unique to southwest Kansas.

Our wi-fi equipped meeting room and enclosed courtyard provide a place for everything from weddings and receptions to business and service club meetings, and our Education Outreach Program offers realities and revelations to thousands of southwest Kansas children and adults every year.

Among many FCHS annual events are three coming up soon:

* Our annual meeting and banquet April 20 at the Church of the Nazarene

* The 2013 Historic Homes Tour, scheduled 1:30 to 4 p.m. June 9 in partnership with the Finney County Women's Chamber

* The fourth annual FCHS Flea Market, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 6, just south of the museum in Finnup Park. We're accepting booth reservations now.

You can find out more about these opportunities by calling 272-3664 or by visiting the Finney County Museum on Facebook. You also can watch for this column the second Saturday of each month in The Telegram. History has always been about making connections between people, and we want to connect with you.