The Dodge City Boot Hill Museum will host a ground breaking ceremony for the construction of a new exhibits building on Thursday, Nov. 1, at 5:30 p.m. The public is invited to attend.

Through the Dodge City STAR Bonds, Boot Hill Museum can construct a 12,000-square-foot building that will house nine new exhibits, lobby, gift shop, covered back patio, and a 3,000-square-foot temporary exhibit hall.

The Front Street Buildings will remain as they are and the new building will add to the experience of walking down the boardwalk, looking at treasures from the past, and reading about the old Dodge City stories. Daily gunfights, shows, and dinners will continue as they have for over 60 years, during the summer season.

The new exhibits building will sit just beside the current entrance of the Great Western Hotel building, and will run east to approximately where the museum service gate is now.

Dodge City and the Boot Hill Museum are nationally and internationally recognized as an authentic and historic Western town and museum.

The redevelopment of the museum will honor that authenticity of Dodge City’s unique identity. Boot Hill Museum will become national caliber with its expansion by investing in historic interpretation to develop significant themes, carefully edit collections, and organize displays to successfully tell and support a compelling story, adding insight and relevance.

The original Boot Hill Cemetery was the first known Boot Hill in the west and the precedence of the Dodge City Boot Hill was a site that would be expanded upon and continue to grow to this very day.

Many local businesses have seen the value and significance in the name "Boot Hill" and have branded their own business with that famous name in support of the museum, of our Dodge City history, and also for their own business success.

The pauper's cemetery in Dodge City was used from 1872 to 1878, and the deceased were all destitute with no friends or family to help pay for a proper burial.

More importantly, most died suddenly or "with their boots on."

In the 1870's people called the cemetery "Boot Hill" for that reason. Starting in the 1880's into the 1920's, people wanted to forget about Dodge City's Wild West history but they didn't forget the name Boot Hill and in the 1920's, people began capitalizing on the property by putting up fake markers and selling souvenirs at the site. In 1947, the Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees) built the Museum on the sacred grounds and called it Boot Hill Museum.

Since 1947, the museum has been through dozens of changes. It began as a small tourist stop staffed by volunteers, and for the next 70 years, buildings were added, improvements were made, collections were acquired, professional staff was hired, and the entire direction of the organization changed.

All these changes are why Boot Hill Museum is still in existence today and why it is a beloved Kansas attraction. Boot Hill Museum, much like the fledgling settlement of Dodge City, has re-invented itself time and time again and has remained relevant.

It is time once again, to make significant improvements and changes to Boot Hill Museum. Well-thought-out museum exhibits and interactive experiences, including cultural diversity, will grow audiences in the long term to meet or exceed the expectations of tourist travelers, area students, and residents.

The new building will provide space for more content and create relevance by upgrading the delivery of Dodge City stories to schools and homeschooled children. Student and school tours will be improved by having new and fresh exhibits that will include character education programs and a venue for temporary displays from traveling museums, demonstrations, and a maker space to work in.

Ford County residents will continue to receive free admission into the redeveloped museum, and out-of-area schools are able to enjoy free tours during the month of January for Kansas Day celebrations.

The public will have an opportunity to learn more about this project and view the new exhibit sketches, descriptions, themes, and stories that will be featured in the new exhibits building at the upcoming Dodge City Chamber Coffee & Breakfast event in the Long Branch Saloon on Oct. 30 from 9 to 10:30 a.m.

The museum expansion project totals around $5.5 million; the Dodge City STAR bond money will cover about 78 percent of the new building, leaving the museum to fund the rest.

The museum has raised $1 million dollars so far to cover most of the interior costs of the new building. The museum was able to achieve this through exhibit naming rights, grants, events, and other giving opportunities.

"We have almost reached our fundraising goal for this project because of so many generous people who are passionate about seeing the Boot Hill Museum grow," said Laura Tawater, Donor Relations Manager.

The Boot Hill Museum staff and Board of Directors would like to invite the public to this ground-breaking ceremony and to be a part of the largest expansion in the museum’s history.

The free event will feature a special appearance by Miss Kitty and the Gunfighters, important announcements, and refreshments.

To learn about the Boot Hill Museum expansion project, upcoming events, and ways to help, go to SaveOurStories.org, BootHill.org, or call 620-227-8188.