Inside The Collection Of The Kansas City Museum | KCUR

Inside The Collection Of The Kansas City Museum

Jan 3, 2014

In December, a city ordinance shifted management of the Kansas City Museum from Union Station Kansas City, Inc. to the  parks department, as of May 1, 2014. Corinthian Hall, the home of the museum, is under renovation – so much of the vast collection remains in storage at Union Station.

So what's in the museum's collection of more than 70,000 objects?

"We collect the history of Kansas City and the surrounding region," says Lisa Shockley, the curator of collections for the Kansas City Museum. "We also have a large Native American collection, and clothing collection that go a bit beyond that."

Shockley shared some recent acquisitions, as well as some of her favorites in the collection.

Interview Highlights: Curator Lisa Shockley

On the 'wow' factor

"The museum identified two areas, in particular, the last few years that no one was really collecting or focusing on. One of those is Nuestra Herencia, which has to do with the Hispanic community. And the other one is GLAMA, which is the Gay and Lesbian Archive of Mid-America.

"This tiara that I'm holding is part of the GLAMA collection. This actually was part of a drag queen beauty pageant. And these are some of my favorite things to work with, because this time of year they're very festive and shiny and sparkly and glittery and lots of feathers and sequins. They're just 'wow' to look at."

On sharing the collection with the public

"Probably the largest traveling exhibit of Native American material, that's kind of legendary among museum people, is an exhibit called Sacred Circles that went around in 1977 that the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the British Museum put on together.

"We actually had a number of pieces in that exhibit, including one of our cradle boards, (and) a doll set. It's a little horse doll with a little lady who rides it, and her baby. It's really really amazing. Yeah, we're not supposed to have favorite children, but we do. We all do (laughs)."

On collecting the history of Kansas City, past and present

"We are very very strong in 1880's, in 1920's, 1950's and moving up. That also reflects the women over the years who gathered the collection when the museum started in the 1940's. Generally when we get clothing donations, it's people cleaning out their grandparents' clothing, or great-grandparents'. So you have in the 1940's, people who cleaning out their grandparents who were young in the 1880's. We're just now having things being offered to us from the '60s and '70s.

"We certainly collect all the way up. The most recent clothing that we have - I know we have a dress from 2006, I now we have a pair of boy's swimming trunks from 2005. Sometimes people say, 'Why do you collect that, it's not old.' Because we're collecting the history of Kansas City. And it will be (old). And it's a lot easier getting it now than it will be waiting for it down the road."