Retired teacher dedicated to volunteering at military history museum

Nancy Shuler, a retired English teacher, helps organize and archive historical photos and documents at the Museum of Missouri Military History located at the Ike Skelton Training Site. Shuler has volunteered at the museum for ten years(Photo by Sarah E. Lupescu, Missouri National Guard).

Kathy Shuler, a retired English teacher, helps organize and archive historical photos and documents at the Museum of Missouri Military History located at the Ike Skelton Training Site. Shuler has volunteered at the museum for ten years. (Photo by Sarah E. Lupescu, Missouri National Guard).

By Sarah E. Lupescu

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - After reaching retirement, some people turn to volunteering to help keep them busy. Kathy Shuler, of Belle, decided to do just that.

Shuler was an English teacher and counselor for more than 20 years. After retirement, Shuler and her husband moved to the country.

"I sort of had a moment of panic," Shuler said. "I was so used to being busy and I was worried that I wouldn't have enough to do. So I started volunteering in schools because that was my comfort zone."

Shuler said she wanted to find something out of her comfort zone. When she and her husband visited the Museum of Missouri Military History at the Ike Skelton Training Site, there was a sign saying the museum needed volunteers.

"I called the museum director," Shuler said. "It was by pure accident that we visited the museum and I saw the sign. It's the first thing that I did that was completely different for me."

She has been volunteering in the museum for 10 years. Shuler still volunteers in school districts and hospice. But the museum is just completely different, she said.

Shuler has worked on numerous different projects during her years in the museum. It wasn't until recently that she felt like she was more than a retired teacher volunteering her time.

"I really feel like an archivist now," Shuler said. "All the new donations that come in, I organize them and put them in folders and add them to my system."

Shuler uses a finding aid so that she knows what is in every drawer of every file cabinet and in every archival box, she said.

"Now when we have new things come in, it's easier to figure out where those things belong," Shuler said.

Shuler uses her own database that she uses to keep track of where everything is stored. Every six months or so, she prints off the newest version of the database to keep in the museum's office.

"Kathy has made my job so much easier by organizing my files and file cabinets," said Charles Machon, the museum director. "In the past it sometimes took me hours or days to find something. Now when I receive a request, I can find it in just a few minutes."

In addition to archiving, Shuler sometimes transcribes video interviews.

"If I'm working on videos, I'll spend about 10 hours a week at home transcribing," Shuler said. "When we don't have any videos that aren't already transcribed, I don't spend much time at home working on projects."

Shuler finds the American Civil War and World War II to be very interesting times in our nation's history, she said.

"I was born during World War II and I remember my parents talking about rations and all that," Shuler said. "I find the Civil War interesting because of Missouri's heavy involvement and because every place I travel to in a large portion of the country, I can see things from the war and visit battle sites."

"I've enjoyed learning about the military and how it functions," Shuler said. "Working here has opened my eyes to certain things. I have a new appreciation because I'm learning about things that our military has done that I never knew about."

"I'm more aware of things that happened when I was working, or taking care of kids, or wasn't paying attention," Shuler said. "People use their talents in ways that I never knew they were."

Shuler has worked with Machon for the entire time that she has been a volunteer.

"It's fun working with someone that is the same age as my kids," Shuler said. "Charles has been completely respectful to me and I have never come here and not had something to do. And there has never been a day that he didn't thank me for coming."

The Museum of Missouri Military History has various historical files on Missouri's military history and Soldiers and Airmen files dating back to 1861. The historical files include information about unit histories, historical lineage and honors, state emergency duty reports, and the Missouri State Guard. All of the files are available for research in the museum office.

The museum also has traveling displays that include various exhibits on unit history, conflicts, and geographical areas in Missouri.

The museum is open for tours from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

For more information on the Museum of Missouri Military History, please visit and

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