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Waco museum receives national honor

Sept. 30, 2003

By Jordan Parrilla, reporter

Nearly 150 years ago, a well-educated Southern family with high hopes of finding land, journeyed by boat to Galveston, ventured through Texas hill country by wagon, and crossed the Brazos River by ferry where they arrived in the small village of Waco.

The family began building a house that later provided accommodation for the 10th president of Baylor, as well as Baylor law students. Today the house, known as the Earle-Napier-Kinnard House, which is part of the Historic Waco Foundation, has achieved the highest honor for a museum äaccreditation by the American Association of Museums.

Between 1858 and 1957, three families had purchased this house and made it their home, including the Earles, Napiers and Kinnards.

The house, with its Greek revival style architecture was begun in 1858 and completed in 1869. Camel-colored bricks, which were handmade on the property, made this the second brick house to be built in Waco.

Ornate wooden railings, made to resemble the ironwork of New Orleans, white-pillared porches and black cypress shutters truly distinguish this house from others.

This house never lacked a vast array of residents ä Abner V. McCall, former Baylor president, who championed religious freedom and humanitarianism; often rented out one of the upstairs bedrooms.

David Kinnard, who served as chaplain in the Civil War and whose family was last to live in the house, often lectured on Greek and Hebrew at Baylor.

'I love this house,' said Mary Wetterman, an interpreter, 'because I feel I could've lived here. It's a family home.'

'When you talk about and study someone as long as you do ... you feel like you've became part of their family,' said Wetterman.

The American Association of Museum Accreditation signifies excellence within the museum community. It is a seal of approval and strengthens individual museums and the entire field by promoting ethical and professional practices. The accreditation process enables the museum to self-evaluate its practices and assists museums leaders in making more informed decisions. It also helps allocate and use resources wisely and maintain the strictest accountability to the public they serve.

Of the nation's nearly 16,000 museums, approximately 750 currently are accredited. It is a rigorous but highly rewarding process that examines all aspects of a museum's operations. Historic Waco Foundation is one of only 40 museums accredited in Texas and one of only two in Waco.

To gain accreditation, the Historic Waco Foundation, which is comprised of four house museums, had to demonstrate the best practices in everything that it did.

'Gaining accreditation is the culmination of 10 years preparation and detailed work in the house museums,' said Pam Crow, Historic Waco Foundation executive director.

'To be accredited, the Historic Waco Foundation had to show excellence in educational programs, in their maintenance, presentation of exhibits and many other things,' said Crow.

Melissa Cunningham, communications and membership manager, said that as a recent Baylor graduate of the Museum Studies master's program, this award put together all that she has been taught in school into a real-world situation.

'We are taught a lot about accreditation and its process, so it's wonderful to be able to work in a museum that seeks these high goals and standards,' said Cunningham.

The Historic Waco Foundation invites anyone interested to help celebrate this momentous occasion from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., today, at the Fort House, located at 503 S. Fourth Street.

The event will feature entertainment, refreshments, guest speakers from the museum community, a proclamation from the city of Waco and free tours of the Historic Fort House. Also, all houses will open from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, for free tours in celebration of accreditation.