Museum director weds science, history
Aubrey Wheeler thought she might grow up to be an archaeologist.
She knew she loved science and history and grew up in museums thanks to a father and sister who shared her interest.
But she carefully researched her vocation and picked anthropology — specifically forensic anthropology a sub-field that involves skeletal analysis to analyze human remains.
“It’s kind of like the TV series ‘Bones,’ ” she said, “It’s helping police identify people.”
Wheeler reopened Marion Historical Museum as its new director this past weekend.
A Newton native, she graduated from Wichita State University’s Emory Lindquist honors track with a bachelor’s degree this past December.
She and college sweetheart Morgan Wheeler, owner of the Building Center, married and moved her to Marion three weeks ago.
A tip about an open position led to an interview with the museum’s board and a surprise offer.
Learning a new city’s history is a big job, but she said she is amazed by the opportunity.
“It is daunting, but it’s worth it,” she said. “I have a lot of help from the community. They have really been supportive and encouraged me as well.”
The hours also will fit her schedule as a graduate student this fall at WSU, where she assists in the anthropology lab.
At the museum, Wheeler keeps busy creating an inventory of exhibits, including donated items dating back to the 1900s that were given by Peabody resident Marvin Larsen.
“That is major, just getting through it,” she said. “Right now the goal is to get an inventory of all artifacts that we have, so we know what’s there — and their history. That’s the biggest goal right now.”
Marion High student Anne Baliel has been “extremely helpful” with this task.
Baliel has assisted with museum’s ongoing project to digitize, catalog and properly store historic photographs. More than 2000 have been digitized so far, but there is much more to go.
“It’s a never ending project,” Baliel said. “There is a lot down in the basement that is yet to be downloaded.”
Baliel, who started at the museum in spring, has been showing Wheeler where files are stored on the hard drive.
The assistance has helped Wheeler get a handle on the job — she already knows 11 of the museum’s exhibits and can name six off the top of her head.
“The Santa Fe section, clothes time, the World War I and World War II section, native Americans, Marion High School…and John Deere from the Larsen estate — just a few,” she said.
The new job has opened her to greater possibilities in path she chose out of a desire to serve others.
Wheeler, the daughter, granddaughter and niece of U.S. servicemen, learned of the Defense Departments POW-MIA accounting agency.
Its mission is to recover military personnel listed as prisoners of war.
“I figured if I did not want to join, this would be my way to help people,” she said.
Now she is considering a career in museums as well as the lab — or maybe both.
In the meantime, the welcome from the community has been wonderful, she said.
“Everyone is really kind here,” she said, “It’s amazing how nice people are.”
Marion City Museum is now open Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Last modified June 25, 2020