By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

History always held a fascination for Don Westfall, even from when he was a small child.

One of Westfall's interests is the old West, when soldiers fought American Indians and buffalo ruled the prairie.

Westfall became executive director of Ellis County Historical Society two years ago, moving to Hays after working at the county museum in Evanston, Wyo.

The museum in his previous position and the one in Hays are similar, except Hays' history of the Old West is richer, with famous characters such as Custer, Hickok and Cody calling Hays home at one time or another.

"It's the same subject matter as the Uinta County Museum, but it's on steroids here," Westfall said.

One aspect of history that has caught Westfall's fancy through the years has been historical dioramas. Ones he particularly has enjoyed are one of the Battle of the Little Big Horn, and one about a gunfight involving Wild Bill Hickok.

A diorama of Historic Fort Hays was moved to the Ellis County Historical Society in 2010 due to lack of space. The historical society has had the same issue, so the diorama has been in storage.

Westfall, however, hopes to take the diorama out of storage and let the public see it once again.

"We already have a diorama here, as opposed to creating one from scratch," Westfall said. "So now it's just meeting the challenge of finding the proper place for it. It's large-scale -- unfortunately too large to fit into (the museum). The plan is to possibly try for a satellite location initially."

Westfall's parents were history buffs. They also were in the Navy. Growing up, the longest they would stay in one place would be three years. With all of his family's cross-country travel, Westfall was able to see a number of museums and historical sites. Dioramas were a favorite back then, too.

"The dioramas influenced me a lot when I went to museums and historical sites as a child," he said. "It sort of brought to life a little more, seeing the subject in a three-dimensional state.

"The interest in dioramas sort of ebbs and flows in the museumology profession. There have been periods where they seem to be very popular, and other periods when museum professionals thought they were passé or toys. It seems like they're making somewhat of a comeback these days, largely because the public likes them."