HOWARD, Kan. (KSNW) – Shrinking populations in some rural areas can mean a downtown full of empty buildings, but not in Howard, Kansas. History is part of why this town of 600 people thrives.

Howard has seven museums where most of the displayed artifacts are donated by locals and residents.

“Almost once a month or even sometimes weekly, I get artifacts from people cleaning up their home or their kids don’t want them,” said Marcia Taylor, the curator of the Benson Museum in Howard. “People don’t want to throw away their heirlooms, but they don’t really want to keep them in their homes either.”

Each of the seven museums features a different story. From military to fashion, the museums showcase it all. There’s even an early 1900 display of medical offices complete with instruments from that era.

One of the museums is dedicated to an extensive doll collection where some of the dolls are over a hundred years old.

“All these dolls you see here were my mom’s and we just didn’t know what we were going to do with 3,800 dolls,” said Marlin Baumgartel, who donated the dolls. “So we talked to the Benson Museum and they accepted them.”

The Benson Museum also boasts a huge collection of school and education memorabilia. A new wing was added when the local school was torn down.

“I have yearbooks from early 1900s up until now, and mementos and other things that people like to see,” Taylor said. “We clean them up, and organize them, add it to make them more interesting.”

With delicate items to display, it was important to make the museum building safe for the visitors and the many artifacts.

“We did a lot of work painting floors, fixing display cases, and putting things out where people can see them,” Taylor added.

The seven museums will grow to eight this summer with the planned addition of a museum highlighting the honeybee business.

“Museums matter, our history matters,” said Taylor. “Why did our people come here and what did they do after they got here? Museums are just a hands-on way to find that out.”