Technology is bringing history to life at the Ellis County Museum in downtown Waxahachie, where an audio tour has been incorporated into two exhibits.

The first exhibit is on Paul Richards, a Waxahachie native, who was a Major League Baseball player on such teams as the Detroit Tigers, and a manager with the Atlanta Braves and Baltimore Orioles. The display has jerseys, gloves and other assorted memorabilia and includes an interview he gave about his life and career.

Museum board member David Hudgins said it was about 15 years ago that a woman gave him a tape of where she had sat down with Richards to have him talk about his life.

“Before, we didn’t have any way to share it,” Hudgins said. “With the technology that is out now it is not like playing a tape when you push this button because it would wear out. We talked to some other museums and found out who does this technology. It is put on a little SD card. That way it does not matter how many people come in here, it is not going to wear it out. Also, we can change it if we need to.

“What we wanted to do (in the exhibit) is let him tell the story instead of just saying, ‘Who is Paul Richards?’ and reading a few things and seeing a hat and a glove,” Hudgins said, saying that Richards’ story is broken up into six different parts where a person can walk up, put a pair of earphones on and listen to each one at a time by pressing a button. The recording talks about his early years in high school, the minor leagues when he was drafted, his career in the minor league, becoming a catcher in the minor league, playing in the majors along with his trip to the World Series with Detroit and a career summary as given by KBEC 1390 on-air personality Ken Roberts.

“There was a lot of editing that went on to get it into this format,” Hudgins said. “KBEC has the ability to do that where it sounds like someone is continually talking, so we were able to tell his life story with him talking through most of these. It gives you a lot more history instead of just walking up to a case and maybe reading a few things but not really understanding what all these mean.

“Some of these (recordings) are different lengths but we try to keep them at two minutes – that is about as long as somebody is going to want to hear,” he said. “For that two minutes, you’re talking about two to three hours’ worth of work. It is talking about his professional career because he spent his whole life in baseball.”

The second exhibit to receive the technology upgrade is about life on the home front during World War Two called “At Home.” Residents of Waxahachie and the surrounding communities were asked to come into the studio at KBEC 1390 to share their memories of that time. They were asked to talk about six topics that included Pearl Harbor, rationing, the Red Cross, saving for the troops, service banners and blackouts, convoys and V-J Day. As with the Richards exhibit, people visiting the museum use headphones and press one of six buttons to hear a selected topic. Sharing their memories with the public in this exhibit were Charleene Pitts, Gretchen Lewis, Sylvia Smith, Bob Lewis, Max Simpson, Billy Ray Hancock and Joe Jenkins.

Ellis County Museum director Shannon Simpson said his favorite part of the new interactive feature is that the people who lived through it tell others about their own experiences in their words.

“There are maybe three people that talk about the same stuff – but they have a different point of view.

What was going on in the United States was a national thing. What was going on in Waxahachie was going on in Dallas and was going on in New York City. You just get a feel about the commitment the people at home were making,” Simpson said.

“The Richards audio was completed before this and I guess that we have kind of been waiting to get it all into place before we make an announcement. I think that people that have listened to it have enjoyed it. Now it is time to let people know,” he said, expressing his appreciation to the Waxahachie Foundation for helping fund the project and KBEC 1390 for putting in its time, doing recordings and editing.

New exhibit opens

The Ellis County Museum invites the public to a viewing of its new installation, “The Masonic Temple: A Lasting Presence,” at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The exhibit takes a detailed look at the site, structure and occupants, with newly discovered information of this historic southeast corner of the courthouse square. Ellen Beasley and Simpson, the co-curators of the exhibit, will be present. Refreshments will be served.

The Ellis County Museum is located at 201 S. College St. in Waxahachie. Its hours are Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 1 p.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. For more information, contact the museum at 972-937-0681.

Contact Andrew at andrew.branca@wninews.com or 469-517-1458.