The town of Montezuma, Kansas, may sound worldly by name, but it’s rare for many residents to travel far beyond its borders. That’s not the case, however, for Claude and Donalda (Donnie) Stauth, two longtime Montezuma residents with a passion for travel, and who eventually opened a museum to share their collection with their community.
Claude and Donnie were successful farmers who loved to travel the world. Beginning with a trip to Cuba in 1949, the Stauths eventually took 23 world trips, visiting 95 countries and six continents over the next 38 years. They would plot out each trip, marking it on a map of the world using color-coded strings. After each journey, they would bring a collection of souvenirs and stories with them back to Montezuma.
Claude and Donnie did not have children, so after Claude passed away, Donnie’s friends encouraged her to open up a museum to have a place to display her collection to her adopted family—the people of Montezuma. She agreed, on three conditions. First, the museum would always be free. Second, it would have special exhibits so that there would always be something new to share. Third, and perhaps most important, the museum would have a community room, so that Donnie would have a place to play bridge.
The Stauth Museum opened on February 24, 1996, in a unique building designed to resemble a Kansas homestead. The majority of the museum consists of artifacts from Claude and Donnie’s collection, organized by continent, with a focus on indigenous crafts and musical instruments.
The museum illustrates the collection with photos of the couple and excerpts from Donnie’s travel journal. Another permanent exhibit, the Fry Wildlife Collection, includes a mounted collection of taxidermy donated by Ralph Fry, a friend of the Stauths and an avid big game hunter. There may also be a special collection depending on the date of your visit.
The museum claims to have received visitors from all 50 states and 62 countries, so even after Claude and Donnie’s passing, the world continues to come to Montezuma.
Know Before You Go
The Stauth Memorial Museum is free, but donations are appreciated. Check the website for the schedule and information about current exhibits.