With the Hon. Karen Arnold-Burger,
Trustee Vice Chair

By Freedom's Frontier

NEWS — APR 15, 2024

FFNHA: What is your professional background?

Judge Arnold-Burger: I have been a lawyer since 1981, including time as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Kansas in KCK, and a judge in some capacity since 1991. For 20 years I was municipal judge in Overland Park and I have been on the Court of Appeals for the last 13 years, 7 as Chief Judge.

In which state and county are you located?

My offices are in Topeka, I live in Olathe. I spent most of my professional life in Overland Park, although I lived in Wyandotte County—Edwardsville and then KCK for the first 13 years of my life.

How long have you been a trustee?

This is my third year.

Why are you a trustee?

Like most, I have a deep commitment to preserving our history so that our children will be able to learn from it. I found out about FFNHA as I was learning about how I could help with the recognition of the Quindaro area of KCK. Its mission dovetailed perfectly with my interest in Quindaro and I was thrilled when the Board reached out to me.

What does Freedom’s Frontier mean to you?

Where do I begin? Well first, it is a National Heritage Area. According to the National Park Service, “National Heritage Areas (NHAs) are designated by Congress as places where natural, cultural, and historic resources combine to form a cohesive, nationally important landscape. Through their resources, NHAs tell nationally important stories that celebrate our nation’s diverse heritage.” So It is about preserving our history so that others can experience it and learn from it. We have such a unique history here on the border and the role of Kansans and Missourians leading up to and during the civil war is something we can all learn from and even apply to issues we face today. Political strife was at its height, hatred toward others ruled the day and how that conflict was resolved set the course for the nation. So many small museums and historic sites are valiantly trying to preserve that history and their own part in it. By grouping them under the broader banner of what we are: freedom’s frontier, we can promote all of them and help them grow. Part of the mission of NHAs is to engage community members in heritage conservation activities and strengthen a sense of place and community pride. Promoting our history can also bring economic development and growth to a community. For example, we have worked on developing online tour plans through our website’s tour portal, so people can take day trips and hit several sites at once. Without such a roadmap, most people don’t know they exist. We need to promote this history with all our might because, if we don’t, it will be lost.

What is the best thing about FFNHA?

The role it plays in bringing together all the historic sites in our heritage area so that we can promote all of them. Some are large, like the Truman Library, and others are very small, like the Gardner Historical Museum, but they are all maintained by dedicated staff with the primary goal of preserving history and educating the public—and that is ALL history, the good, the bad and the ugly.

What future FFNHA event or initiative are you most excited about?

My focus has always been on the revitalization and historic recognition of the Quindaro area. But that said, we have some amazing events coming up– to include hosting the other National Historical Areas in April 2026. The staff is already planning ways to showcase the amazing shared history of Kansas and Missouri.

What is the last historic site you visited?

The Truman Presidential Library for our quarterly partner’s meeting. It has received a major renovation, financed by private dollars. If you haven’t been in a while…you must go. It is well worth it.

What is the last book you read?

I usually have several books going at the same time…always non-fiction. Most recently: Fever in the Heartland by Timothy Eagan is the one I can’t stop thinking about.

Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area (FFNHA) builds awareness of struggles for freedom in western Missouri and eastern Kansas. Established by Congress in 2006, FFNHA covers a unique physical and cultural landscape across 41 counties and 31,000 square miles. It promotes three diverse, interwoven, and nationally significant stories: frontier settlement, the Missouri-Kansas Border War and Civil War, and enduring civil rights disputes. FFNHA inspires respect for multiple perspectives and empowers area residents to preserve and share these stories, achieving its goals through interpretation, preservation, conservation, and education for all residents and visitors. It is one of 62 federally recognized National Heritage Areas across the United States.

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