A glimpse into the future of the Kansas City Museum

The renovation of the Kansas City Museum’s Corinthian Hall is well underway. Photos courtesy of International Architects Atelier.

By Paul Thompson
Northeast News

Have you ever wondered how the Kansas City Museum develops its exhibits? A July 27 event at the Kansas City Museum’s Historic Garment District (KCM@HGD) space provided insight into how the Museum will re-shape Corinthian Hall (3218 Gladstone) after it reopens in 2020, following a multi-million dollar renovation.

The June 27 exhibit design and development presentation – the most comprehensive look yet at the plans for Corinthian Hall – included close-up photos of the work being done inside, detailed descriptions of new exhibits and overall themes, preliminary floor-by-floor renderings, and even a fall 2018 estimate for when the general public will be able to take a hardhat tour.

“We do want to give people the opportunity to experience this while we’re in construction,” said Anna Marie Tutera, Executive Director of the Kansas City Museum.

The renovation of the Kansas City Museum is supported in part through $8 million from the City of Kansas City, Missouri, provided out of $800 million in General Obligation bond approved by voters in April 2017. Additional funds needed to complete the $15 million renovation are expected to derived from the Making a Museum KC Capital Campaign, which is currently underway.

Andy Short, with design architecture firm International Architects Atelier (IAA), began the presentation by showing attendees photos of the work in progress at Corinthian Hall. Those efforts include plaster restoration throughout the structure; the addition of sprinkler systems and lighting; restoring a stone mantle; and recreating the historic paint – a process that required peeling back layer upon layer, and then inspecting the ceiling with a microscope to determine the original color.

The dining room, in particular, has undergone enormous changes.

“Really the only piece that was left over from the original building was the ceiling,” Short said.

Tutera described elements of the schematic design phase, a collaboration with a museum planning and design firm called Gallagher & Associates. That phase involves developing the concepts and aesthetics that will set the foundation for all future work at Kansas City Museum.

That part of the design process has led collaborators to ask big questions about the future of the Museum.

“How do we inspire people who come to the Kansas City Museum to want to learn more?” Tutera said.

Attendees also received new details, with Tutera describing the six core themes that are expected to guide the restructured Kansas City Museum when Corinthian Hall reopens. Those themes are: 1) cultural confluences (rivers to 1870s); 2) An evolving “City Beautiful” (1890s to 1930s); 3) Thriving Populations (1880s to 1950s); 4) Perspectives on Renewal (1950s to 1990s); 5. A Cultural Renaissance (1970s to present); and 6) Our City, Our Stories (Past, Present, and Future).

A highlight from the presentation were project renderings depicting the anticipated uses of each floor of the Museum.
The lower level is expected to feature a billiards room, a contemporary art installation, restrooms, and the triumphant return of the Museum’s once-popular soda fountain. The anticipation is that the lower level will also become a popular destination for private events.

Plans for first floor of the Museum feature a restaurant space large enough to host culinary programs and chef’s table events. Much of the first floor will also be renovated, including the preservation and restoration of the Otis Elevator. The Kansas City Museum store is expected to be located on the east end of the first floor.

On the second floor, the Museum is planning to house a rotating exhibition pulled from the Museum’s materials, along with exhibit galleries showcasing four of the Museum’s core themes: ’Cultural Confluences,’ ‘An Evolving City Beautiful,’ ’Perspectives on Renewal,’ and ‘Thriving Populations.’ Plans for the second floor also include an accessible porch with an elevated view of the Missouri River.

The ‘Our City, Our Stories’ theme is expected to be housed on the third floor, featuring an audio booth designed to host radio broadcasts and record community voices. The third floor is also expected to include the ‘A Cultural Renaissance’ exhibit, along with a theater space big enough to fit roughly 50 people.

“The third floor is probably the most contemporary space, with the look and the feel and the colors,” Tutera said.

The ‘City Beautiful’ theme will include the story of Corinthian Hall, from the family home of R.A. Long to its later transformation into a museum. Though much of the Long family’s belongings were sold in a two-day auction following the patriarch’s death, the Museum is excited to display items from the family collection.

“We’re really fortunate to have a lot of materials that we can return to these rooms,” said Denise Morrison, Director of Collections & Curatorial Services.

Tutera also took time to credit Morrison for her work maintaining the Museum’s 100,000 piece collection over the past 30 years.

“The collection is the core of everything that we do, and that’s why it’s been so important to take our time with the interpretive planning and the architectural design,” Tutera said.

Following the presentation, Tutera described the feeling of unveiling the new information about the future of the Kansas City Museum, especially knowing that members of the public have been waiting decades for the renovation of Corinthian Hall.

“It is really emotional. I think it’s because I’m so proud of how far we’ve come, and I’m so proud of the team,” Tutera said. “Watching the construction, day-to-day, is a complete thrill.”

Representatives with J.E. Dunn, who is handling the construction work at Corinthian Hall, were also on hand to answer questions from attendees. The latest progress report filed by the construction team can be found at the Kansas City Museum’s web site.

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