By LESLIE COLLINS
February 12, 2014
In three months, the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department will have control over the Kansas City Museum. To prepare for the transition, Parks and Recreation Department staff, along with city architects, are continuing to tour the grounds, taking note of current processes and procedures and what needs to be accomplished.
“We just keep looking at what needs to be done, but we also realize, too, this is a little bit of a challenge because you don’t have a fully functioning facility right now,” said Mark McHenry, director of the Parks and Recreation Department.
In 2007, renovations began at the museum, and Collections Department staff packed up the artifacts on display and placed them into storage. To date, crews have replaced and restored windows, repaired the roof and masonry, installed historically accurate doors, removed non-original construction and installed an HVAC system. The museum is still in mid-renovation and bare-boned.
McHenry said the biggest challenge is “How do you come up with the necessary resources to make this an operating facility? When you walk through it, it’s a shell. It’s not a fully functioning building yet. So, we have to look at the long-term, and what that means is time and money. There’s a lot to be done to get it to a full-fledged museum.”
Members of the Parks and Recreation Board were scheduled to tour the museum grounds Feb. 11, and McHenry said staff and board members are still in the process of gathering information and learning more about the collections and operations.
One upcoming positive, McHenry said, is that the city’s Public Works Department plans to repair and replace curbs and sidewalks surrounding the museum once weather permits.
For now, the parks department plans to continue to store the museum’s artifacts in the lower level of Union Station and at the Hunt Midwest caves located under Worlds of Fun.
One subject of contention has been the residency requirement which will take effect for museum employees in May. Currently, all but one of the museum employees live outside the city limits. Once the museum employees officially become city employees in May, they will be required to live within city limits in order to remain employed. City officials have already stated they will not grandfather in the employees, like they did with Municipal Ambulance Services Trust (MAST).
“I can’t change that. That’s beyond me,” McHenry said of the residency requirements.
However, McHenry pointed out that museum staff will have a nine month grace period to find housing within Kansas City.
The parks department is also reviewing the museum’s business plan and interpretative plans as well as evaluating current programming to determine which programs are viable.
“Getting exposure and attendance is critical,” he said. “We have to look at it from an outreach perspective. How do we get the message of the Kansas City Museum beyond the walls of that building?”
Top priorities for the museum, he said, include preserving and protecting the physical structures, preserving and protecting the collection, ensuring the museum levy is spent properly and sustainability.
McHenry said he’s garnering input from current museum staff as well as other city operated museums. Public input is also desired, he said.
“We want to hear from people. There’s a lot of work that’s been done, but you always like to get good ideas out there,” he said.
As for assuring the public that the museum will continue to operate and thrive under new leadership, he said, “I think our track record speaks for itself. We’re concerned about all our venues and facilities and making sure we provide good programs and a good experience. In this case, we’re going to do the best we can with what we can.”