At the Finney County Historical Museum, we don't just store artifacts and archive information. Our mission involves preservation of the past to enlighten the future, and that means our job is to bring history alive.

We're doing that this weekend at the Southwest Kansas Antiques Appraisal Fair, which is a Saturday event running from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Finney County 4-H Building, where we have a team of volunteer appraisers conducting our own live and local version of "Antiques Road Show."

In fact, even if you haven't pre-registered, there's probably still time to come by with a family keepsake or handed-down treasure, and you're invited to do so.

Brown bag lunches

In addition, you're invited to stop in during the noon hour every Tuesday at the museum throughout February, plus the first Wednesday in March, because we're also hosting our annual Brown Bag Lunch Series.

The series offers a new presentation each week for the public, as well as for members of the Finney County Historical Society, and everyone is welcome to bring their own lunch and listen. We'll provide beverages and home-made dessert, and we'll also provide a program that focuses on different aspects of local history.

Each presentation runs approximately one hour, beginning right at noon in the meeting room of the museum. We're located at 403 S. Fourth St. in Finnup Park, and you'll want to use the north/staff entrance, which is marked by a trio of tall, historic courthouse columns standing in a row just outside our building.

Immigrant heritage, WWII, robbers re-run

The programs got under way this week, and if you made it to the first one, you've already learned a lot about the Fleagle Gang, a band of notorious Dust Bowl era robbers who operated in Western Kansas, Colorado and various other states. Today, the Fleagles may not be as famous or infamous as John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson or Bonnie and Clyde, but the session by Museum Education Coordinator Johnetta Hebrlee drew a full house and showed how the gang was every bit as daring and dangerous as their contemporaries.

Our education coordinator organizes the entire Brown Bag series each year, by the way, and for 2014 she has scheduled the following:

* Feb. 11, "Footsteps to Finney County," outlining how immigration from various countries and cultures has shaped Finney County since its earliest days.

* Feb. 18, "War Birds," sharing the story of the highly-trained homing pigeons that carried messages to help Allied forces win World War II.

* Feb. 25, "The Airbase," offering listeners a chance to re-live the history of the Garden City Regional Airport and how it evolved from a training base important to the outcome of the second world war.

* March 5, a Wednesday, when we'll re-present the Fleagle session for anyone who missed it the first time due to the Feb. 4 snow storm.

Like the opening segment, the education coordinator will present the airbase session on Feb. 25 herself, based on information in our archives and collection. In addition, our current "Garden City Then and Now" exhibit features a group of photographs and a three-dimensional diorama of the base, which visitors can see by visiting our Temporary Gallery after the program.

Garden City resident Daryl Hopkins is speaking Feb. 18 during the "War Birds" segment, covering a topic he has researched extensively. The museum will be closed Monday, following the appraisal fair this weekend, but I have the honor of offering the information on our immigrant heritage on Tuesday, first drawn from our research library for last October's Garden City Multicultural Summit.

Sessions free to all

This annual series, which covers topics in past and current history and culture, is part of the museum's education outreach program. That program also includes tours, presentations and lessons at the museum, in local and area schools, and at locations ranging from the streets of downtown Garden City to the lawns of Valley View Cemetery.

Admission to the Brown Bag Lunch Series is free, and neither reservations nor registration are required. Past sessions have offered more than a few revelations and surprises, not to mention some memories, and we hope there will be even more this year. We're also, of course, open to questions and suggestions.

So, if you'd like to bring your lunch and learn a little more about how the past has affected the present, just stop by the museum at noon any Tuesday this month, or on March 5. We're doing our best to bring history alive.