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Kansas City Museum reopens after 13 years, $22 million in renovations

After 13 years of renovations and planning, the Kansas City Museum reopened to the public in late October.

The museum had been mostly closed since 2008, during which the community has allocated roughly $22 million in public funding and private contributions to extensive renovations.

Now, for the first time in four decades, every floor of Corinthian Hall is available to museum visitors. Each floor is packed with exhibits and collections that explore different eras of Kansas City history, including the reopened third floor. 

“We have it as exhibit space, and the theater area which we use as a lecture hall,” said Lisa Shockley, a UMKC alum and the curator of collections at the Kansas City Museum. “That might be the most exciting thing for me, and just a chance to bring out more collections.”

The museum, which reopened on Oct. 21, invites visitors to explore the legacy of the Long family. Robert Alexander Long, a wealthy lumber baron and developer, began construction on his four-story mansion in 1907. Following Long’s death in 1934, Corinthian Hall remained empty until 1939 when the Long family donated it to the Kansas City Museum Association.

Each exhibit pulls visitors through years of Kansas City history, from the expedition of Lewis and Clark to the different communities and neighborhoods that make up the city as it stands today. 

The second floor boasts an immense collection of historical and cultural artifacts, which paint an accurate and thought-provoking portrait of Kansas City’s past. They celebrate innovation and progress through history while sharing difficult stories of racial injustice and segregation. 

Visitors to the fourth floor can find stories from people of different cultures and backgrounds that call Kansas City home, as well as descriptions of what Kansas City neighborhoods look like today.

Each exhibit presents a comprehensive perspective on a given topic. For instance, next to an exhibit of medical equipment preserved since the 50s, there is a celebration of traditional medicine and contributions by women to the field. 

“It’s a very different experience from before the renovations,” said Director of Visitor Experience Paul Gutiérrez. 

Gutiérrez said that the museum is currently limiting the number of visitors, due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“We know how many people are going to be in the building and how much staff we need on hand,” Shockley said. “But not being able to have as many people as possible presents some challenges.” 

Despite strict COVID restrictions, the museum is hosting new events like showings of the documentary “Cowtown Ballroom…Sweet Jesus” in November. There will be three showings with director Joe Heyen in attendance, along with a Q&A session after the film. 

The Kansas City Museum reminds visitors that what makes our city special is the people that push boundaries and make Kansas City a better place for everyone to live. 

Kansas City residents interested in visiting the museum can book a reservation on the Kansas City Museum website.

aentyb@umsystem.edu

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