The Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum’s Museum Director was featured in the Atchison Globe on March 31, 2022. Please click here to view the article on the Globe’s website, or continue reading below.
The first thing that one notices about Allison Balderrama is her infectious smile. Behind that smile is a young wife and mother with a booming career. The journey to becoming the museum director of the Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum started at a very young age.
“I may have inherited some genes from my dad and grandfather, both had careers as engineers for airplanes,” Balderrama said.
It seems the stars were aligned when Balderrama chose Benedictine College to study history and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in History. She also holds a Master of Arts in Museums, Heritage and Public History from the University of Missouri-St. Louis
Her education information reads like a who’s who with graduate and undergraduate internships. Balderrama’s breadth of archival and museum experience includes work with the Missouri Humanities Council where she assisted with the creation of exhibits for Missouri’s German Heritage Corridor.
While a student at Benedictine College she remembers the day that the plane, Muriel, came to Atchison. Balderrama had studied the life of Amelia Earhart throughout her youth and as a young adult she delved even more into Amelia’s life. Her favorite aspects of Amelia’s life was that Amelia was a great writer.
“She was so eloquent with her poetry, she also painted and the museum has a piece she painted when she was nine years old of the bridge that Amelia did for her grandmother,” Balderrama said. “She also was a writer for the magazine Cosmopolitan.”
Graduate and undergraduate internships added to Balderrama’s breadth of archival and museum experience, including work with the Missouri Humanities Council where she assisted with the creation of exhibits for Missouri’s German Heritage Corridor.
At the Benedictine College Library, she developed a digitization program for the Rare Books collection. She also enjoyed internships with the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum, the Missouri Historical Society, and the Truman Presidential Library and Museum.
Balderrama holds a Master of Arts in Museums, Heritage and Public History from the University of Missouri-St. Louis and a Bachelor of Arts in History from Benedictine College. She currently serves as a board member of the Atchison County Historical Society.
Her life seems to have been in preparation to take on the role of the Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum director.
“I never thought I would have a chance to be involved with the museum, especially not every day,” Balderrama said. “I love the fact that I get to wear so many different hats at the museum.”
One thing she would like to do is take flying lessons but with all of the happenings and renovation at the museum that opportunity will have to wait.
Sharing some happenings at the museum she tells the story of a gentleman that was from Australia, now living in Seattle, flew his plane into Kansas City to see a friend.
“His friend told him about the new museum to Amelia Earhart and he decided to fly to Atchison to see it,” Balderrama said. “Of course we have not completed the exhibit but he was in awe over Muriel.”
Balderrama went on to say that schools love to come to the museum. There have been schools from Iowa make the trip and are so excited to the drawings for the exhibitions soon to come to the museum.
“We had a family come through the museum and the daughters were dressed up as Amelia. They were so excited to hear about Amelia’s life,” Balderrama said.
It seems that the museum has also had a population increase, Balderrama welcomed a baby boy named Leo six months ago.
She said getting the museum ready isn’t too far from getting ready to have a new born in some ways.
“It’s like having a pregnancy in its own right with the preparation of the exhibits,” Balderrama said.
Balderrama gave credit to the role one of the founding members of the Atchison Area Economic Development Council Ladd Seaberg played in getting the museum to the position it is now.
“We really focus on Amelia and her accomplishments, but this entire project could not have happened if it weren’t for Ladd Seaberg,” Balderrama said. “He was the driving force behind the museum and now his vision is about to come true.” Karen Seaberg now is the guardian of Ladd’s vision.