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Kansas City Museum Officials Announce Plans To Finance $15 Million Renovation

C.J. Janovy
KCUR 89.3
Kansas City officials are preparing to renovate the interior of the Kansas City Museum.

The long-running effort to recreate the Kansas City Museum as a major local history museum entered a new phase Monday with the announcement of $1 million in private commitments pledged toward a total of $15 million in private and public money city leaders say is needed to restore the property to "its former glory."

If money for renovations to the mansion once owned by lumber magnate and civic leader R.A. Long is raised on schedule, construction would begin this summer and a fully restored museum would re-open to the public in the summer of 2019.

Credit C.J. Janovy / KCUR 89.3
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The Kansas City Museum is currently open for some exhibitions and history tours, but will close for construction in summer 2017. Some rooms of R.A. Long's mansion (now known as Corinthian Hall) remain relatively architecturally intact, such as the salon.

Members of the recently formed Kansas City Museum Foundation on Monday announced a capital campaign to reach their first funding milestone of $2 million, and City Manager Troy Schulte said that in addition to $6 million allocated through the museum levy, the city could contribute an additional $7 million if voters approve a general obligation bond issue on the April 4 ballot.

Leaders hope for a nationally recognized museum to house its collection of more than 100,000 artifacts. The museum's executive director, Anna Marie Tutera, has described an institution such as theCity Museum of New York.

At an open house scheduled for later this month, the public will get its first look at floor plans and drawings depicting the "core stories" museum planners hope to tell in the mansion's various rooms.

"The Kansas City Museum means the preservation of the city’s history, of the stories of Kansas Citians, of residents and neighbors. That includes documenting untold stories about Kansas City’s history, and it means bringing us together to learn about the past and understand how that past really defines our future," Tutera said.

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Rooms on the east side of the museum, such as the living room, will require more extensive 're-interpretation,' says the museum's executive director, Anna Marie Tutera.

"The Kansas City Museum is, I always like to say, our local Smithsonian Institution," said Mary Davidson, vice chair of the Kansas City Museum Foundation's board of directors.

"I think it’s appropriate here to say," Davidson added, "that whether we are new Kansas Citians or old Kansas Citians, new families or old, no matter what our ethnic background, our religion, our color, our creed, we are all in this together and we have to remember that. Something like the Kansas City Museum unites us all."

The property, which became a public museum in 1940 and earned a listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, came under the jurisdiction of Union Station in 2001. A $10 million exterior and infrastructure renovation to the 1910 Beaux-Arts style mansion, now known as Corinthian Hall, began in 2005.

The mansion's original sun room is slated to become the museum store, with products designed by local and regional artisans. 'We’ll work together to create products sold exclusively at the Kansas City Museum and resonate with its history, architecture, and collection, says the museum's executive director, Anna Marie Tutera.
Credit C.J. Janovy / KCUR 89.3

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Community members helped develop an "interpretive plan" for the property in 2010, which helped leaders begin to envision specific how to use various rooms in the three-story mansion. Besides exhibition spaces, plans now include a museum cafe and store.

The Kansas City, Missouri, Parks and Recreation department took over operation in 2014, and since last April, museum leaders have been working with Kansas City's International Architects Atelier and others on a master plan for the museum's next phase.

"It’s fitting this museum is located in the Northeast, where so many cultures collide and come together, where there’s such a rich vibrancy to the palette of this city, so to speak," Mayor Sly James said of the Historic Northeast Neighborhood, traditionally a home to the city's newest immigrants.

It's not enough to just talk about that diversity, James said.

"This is something that will have an emotional impact on this city. The new vision of the museum is to serve as a hub of learning, creativity and collaboration, where individuals and communities can innovate, collaborate, inspire each other and engage in civic unity. Those are things we strive for day to day and this is now going to be a physical manifestation of that striving."

Members of the public can review the museum's newly finished "visitor experience plan" at an open house from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 29 in the mansion at 3218 Gladstone Boulevard, Kansas City, Missouri, 64123.

C.J. Janovy is an arts reporter for KCUR 89.3. You can find her on Twitter, @cjjanovy.

A free press is among our country’s founding principles and most precious resources. As director of content-journalism at KCUR, I want everyone in our part of America to know we see them and we’re listening. I work to make sure the stories we tell and the conversations we convene reflect our complex realities, informing and inspiring all of us to meet the profound challenges of our time. Email me at cj@kcur.org.
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