Making Our Museum

In partnership with the Kansas City Museum (KCM), The Northeast News is sharing the past, present and future of the museum as we await its grand reopening this fall following a $22 million restoration. This week, Publisher Michael Bushnell sat down with Dr. Mary Davidson, President of the Kansas City Museum Foundation Board (KCMF) and Board Member Shomari Benton.


The Making a Museum initiative is an expansive action in community building, which required extensive outreach and information gathering by the foundation’s board to determine a direction for the new era of the museum. The foundation has taken intentional steps to make KCM an integral part of the amenities that Kansas City has to offer people who visit, people who live here, and anyone who wants to learn more about the city’s history.


The active Northeast neighborhood associations have been strong advocates for the museum over the years, appreciating it for the gem it is in Northeast, and Kansas City as a whole, Davidson added.


“I think this museum, related to the history and culture of the city, is going to be top notch,” Benton said, comparing it to the Black Archives of Mid-America, Liberty Memorial, the Kansas City Zoo and others. “When you look at all those pearls on the necklace, it’s a pretty exciting time and I think a lot of people are looking forward to the opening of the museum.”


The museum will receive the 2021 Missouri Preservation Honor Award this month.


“Historically speaking, preservation is a very, very important part because the Long house was in desperate condition for an awfully long time, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be brought back to life,” Davidson said. “I think that preservation award states loud and clear what the Parks Department, the city of Kansas City, the museum foundation, the Northeast area, the neighborhood, have done to say, ‘We can bring this back to life, we can make it what it was once.’ It was a house to be treasured, to be admired and to be looked at by the community and the citizens of the five county area.”


Corinthian Hall is the main focus for this phase of restoration in order to get it to a place where it can be opened to the public – totaling nearly $22 million of restoration and renovation work. The foundation raised about $6 million of that.


“It is not just one thing, it’s a whole series – it’s like a patchwork quilt that you put together,” Davidson said. “I think a lot of it is due to the fact that Anna Marie and Angela [Tangen] and the board have been really good at talking about the museum, telling what an integral part it is of the history of this city.”


The museum is going to display over 100,000 artifacts, curated in an intentional way to tell the complete story of Kansas City.


“I think it’d be pretty great to be able to walk, bike, drive by the Kansas City Museum and, similar to the Nelson, see folks having picnics, have their dogs out around the museum playing frisbee – part of a community asset, part of a public asset – and folks speaking about it, whether they live in the community or are from the community and moved away, or are simply visitors speak on, interact with, hold to high esteem the museum as some of those other assets that we have.”


Davidson would like to see the Kansas City Museum atop the list of stops that people make to learn more about the city, the history of the city, to see a beautiful home, art, the diversity of the Northeast, and neighborhood partnerships in action.


“It’s an interesting combination of the past, the present and the future,” Davidson said. “We have to look always toward the future to see and collect things. History didn’t stop with what the Kansas City Museum collected. The history of the city is ongoing.”


Programming is a key component in any museum’s repertoire. Some of the programming that has taken place in recent years, like the Derby Party, brings in both neighbors and those from further outside the area. This year’s event has been scheduled for September – as a soft opening prior to the museum’s grand reopening, which is planned for October of this year.


“It’s a tremendous asset and it’s something that I think the city’s going to be very proud of, the region’s going to be very proud of,” Benton said. “I’m extremely excited about that conversation, but most importantly, to be a part of the site that’s sole purpose is to tell the story of Kansas City. We have an amazing history and I think it’s the time to start digging deep into that and opening that history up to the city, to the region, and to visitors and folks who are simply interested in learning more about it. It’s past due time that we have something of that nature.”

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