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Usually at this time of year, I’m writing about the long-running — as in, more than 80 years running — Kenosha Public Museum travelogue film series.

Instead, I’m sad to report the beloved series is no more.

What had been the longest tenured travelogue program in the country became the victim of changing times.

The museum began hosting travel films way, way back in the last century, with screenings in the basement of the old Kenosha Public Museum (the building that now houses the Dinosaur Discovery Museum).

When it outgrew that space, the series was moved to the Reuther Central High School auditorium.

For decades, travelogue films were shown Friday nights at Reuther. Starting in 2017, the series shifted to Thursdays at the Kenosha Public Museum.

Over the years, local audiences were treated to live narration by the filmmakers at the presentations, taking “armchair travelers” to such destinations as Hawaii and Alaska (particular favorites here) along with more exotic locations.

The final season, which started last September and wrapped up in May, opened with a journey on the Lewis & Clark Trail, trekked across India and included filmmaker Marlin Darrah’s “Wonders of the World” film, covering 43 countries in 86 breathless minutes. That night, the live narration must have sounded like an auctioneer.

Unlike most travelogues, which focus on a particular location, “Wonders of the World” takes viewers to dozens of world-famous sites.

Darrah calls his film “a journey filled with the world’s incredible people, wildlife, exotic jungles, mountains, paradise beaches, miraculous architecture and temples, astounding art treasures, old cities, towns and villages.”

That’s also an apt description of the travelogue film series, which circled the globe numerous times in 82 seasons.

Darrah has produced more than 70 travel films. His work has been seen on PBS, the History Channel, the Discovery Channel and all the major networks — and that’s part of the reason the local film series has ended.

Dying art form

Travelogues presented by a live narrator has been somewhat of a dying art form for several years, as filmmakers focus on TV and online showings.

Brenda Roth, who headed the museum’s travelogue series, worked with film producers from around the world to put together the film lineup.

Each year, that job grew more difficult.

“While we are very appreciative of our loyal Travel Adventure Series audience — and proud that we were able to carry the legacy of the longest running program in the country — we do feel that it is time to draw the program to a close for the time being,” she said.

The size of the local audience varied significantly from week to week, she said, depending on the presenter, the location — and oftentimes the weather.

“But if only 80 people attended a show or close to 200, what has always been most important to us is the audience’s experience,” Roth said.

The museum’s film series aimed to show people a variety of locations “from far-off remote places as well as the familiar national parks of America, narrated and produced by high-quality filmmakers,” Roth said.

However, despite the continued popularity of the local series, “the pool of presenters and new material shrinks smaller every year, and it has become increasingly difficult to find working presenters who can fit us into their schedule and are willing to make the trip to Kenosha — especially in the treacherous winter months,” Roth said.

While the travelogues are no more, Roth encourages local fans “to attend other programs we have going on at the museum this fall that incorporate other cultures, such as Dia de los Muertos and the International Holiday Faire.”

And for those looking for a travel film experience this week, check out “Downton Abbey” (impossibly gorgeous English countryside) and “Ad Astra” (Brad Pitt in outer space!) in area theaters.

Have a comment? Email Liz at esnyder@kenoshanews.com or call her at 262-656-6271.

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