Both Harvey and McPherson County residents will have an opportunity to witness a piece of history over the next few weeks thanks in part to those in the Kansas Courts system, with Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Chief Judge Joe Dickinson helping bring a traveling exhibit on the Magna Carta to the 9th Judicial District.
Put together by the American Bar Association in honor of the document's 800th anniversary, "Magna Carta: Enduring Legacy" features multiple banners sharing historic details relating to the creation of the Magna Carta. The traveling exhibit shares images of objects from the Library of Congress collections that illustrate the Magna Carta’s influence throughout the centuries and explain the document’s long history.
"The Magna Carta set the course for democracy in England and greatly influenced democracy in the United States. We probably take for granted concepts like due process of law but these ideas of justice had to start somewhere and the Magna Carta is the first written document enumerating certain guarantees of fairness and justice. I personally knew very little about the document and its origins but it is obviously an important beginning in our system of justice," Dickinson said.
Dickinson said the attorney general reached out to see if he would be interested in bringing the exhibit to the 9th Judicial District. Upon sharing that interest, his role was to facilitate a host site. He reached out to the Harvey County Historical Museum and McPherson Museum as potential locations for "Magna Carta: Enduring Legacy."
For Harvey County Historical Museum director Catherine Goodwin, it was an educational opportunity with which she was quick to get on board.
"To me, it was something different. How many people know anything about the Magna Carta? This is law and how it kind of came about," Goodwin said. "I just want people to have a better understanding, and that's why I was so apt to jump on this. This isn't something you're going to walk in and see anywhere you go. I would love it if people would come, take their time, read and learn."
On top of outlining how the 13th century document set the course for democracy in England and shaped its path in the U.S., Goodwin noted there were a number of interactive elements that came with the Magna Carta exhibit, including a scavenger hunt for kids and a crossword puzzle.
Recent looks into the inner workings of the court system, such as through Supreme Court nominations and shows like "Making a Murderer," have also made the Magna Carta exhibit a timely topic considering it goes over the origins of some of the concepts coming up in pop culture.
"With that, it kind of shows you their process of how they're trying to get their client off and getting out of jail," Goodwin said. "They quote a lot of the Magna Carta and a lot of the due process, habeas corpus and stuff like that."
Local residents are encouraged to check out the exhibit, which will be on display at the Harvey County Historical Museum, 203 N. Main, Newton, through Oct. 15. The HCHM is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays. The exhibit will then be hosted at the McPherson Museum, 1111 E. Kansas Ave., McPherson, from Oct. 17-31, with hours of operation from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sundays.
Groups wanting to arrange visits to the exhibit can contact the Harvey County Historical Museum at 316-283-2221 or the McPherson Museum at 620-241-8464, with Dickinson encouraging as many people as possible to gain an understanding of the extensive impact of the Magna Carta by witnessing this exhibit.
"It is an important piece of history that’s greatly affected civilized societies all over the world, including our own," Dickinson said. “This document served to guide and shape our own Constitution. It is my hope that citizens and students will take advantage of this exhibit and visit it while it is here.”