Kansas Historical Society Executive Director dies

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) — The Kansas Historical Society Executive Director, Jennie Chinn, has died.

Since 2004, Chinn has served as the executive director of the Kansas Historical Society. In 2002, Chinn served as the interim executive director. Previously, she served as the Historical Society’s education division director from 1991 to 2004.

“Jennie Chinn was passionate about our state and its rich history,” Kansas Governor Laura Kelly said. “From State Historic Preservation Officer to spearheading new exhibits to writing award-winning Kansas history books, Jennie left a legacy of contributing to Kansas. My thoughts are with her family and loved ones during this difficult time.”

According to the State of Kansas and Gov. Kelly, Chinn launched the agency’s first Kansas folklore program in 1982 to preserve endangered cultural traditions. As a Kansas folklorist, she established an apprenticeship program, which raised awareness of folk arts, celebrated traditions with festivals, and established a relationship with masters and apprentices to carry on traditions.

Chinn authored The Kansas Journey, the seventh-grade textbook for Kansas history, in 2005, according to the State of Kansas and Gov. Kelly. The textbook is now in its third edition. More than 28,000 students across the state use this text to study the state’s history. The Kansas Journey received the Textbook & Academic Writers Association’s 2022 Textbook Excellence Award, recognizing excellence in current textbooks and learning materials.

In addition, she co-chaired the Kansas history curriculum standards in both 1999 and 2004, and taught folklore classes at Washburn University from 1986 to 2004.

Chinn was a Kansan by choice, having lived in the state since 1980.

“I am passionate about Kansas history,” Chinn said. “The state has been at the forefront of many issues important to the development of this nation.”

Her current major project was spearheading new exhibits for the Kansas Museum of History. She has worked in recent years seeking input, planning, researching, writing, and sharing her vision to transform the Museum’s galleries for the 21st century. The resulting $6 million capital campaign, overseen by the Kansas Historical Foundation, the state agency’s sister organization, is nearly complete.