Repair and Restoration: A Conversation with The Kansas City Museum

hawkins@growyourgiving.org Individual & Family Giving

“The choices that we make are important. Our individual personal stories are important. Where we come from is essential to who we are. And we believe that creating programs that also focus on identity and belonging, and engagement are critical for residents of this city. We also have adopted a restorative practices methodology for the development of our exhibits, our programs and our events at the Kansas City Museum. And what that means is that we understand that if we tell the whole story of our cities’ history, including stories that have often been left out, histories that have been left out, we have an opportunity for healing. We have an opportunity to repair harm, repair relationships, restore trust between individuals and individuals and their communities, and create a more just and unified city in doing so.” – Anna Marie Tutera, Executive Director of The Kansas City Museum

 

Quietly perched on a bluff in the Historic Northeast neighborhood is the Kansas City Museum. Once the private estate of the Robert and Ella Long family, the Kansas City Museum is full of robust multicultural stories of Kansas City and its people. The Kansas City Museum has reinvented itself as a hub for historical preservation while celebrating the unfolding stories of today’s Kansas City community.

On this episode of the Grow Your Giving podcast, Anna Marie Tutera, Executive Director, shares about the preservation and renovation of the historic museum.


Listen to the Conversation


About Anna Marie Tutera

 

Anna Marie has 25 years of experience in museums and nonprofits. She has been the Executive Director of the Kansas City Museum since 2014. Anna Marie grew up in Kansas City, Missouri and has lived and worked in Chicago, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. She has been employed at The Wornall/Majors House Museums, Santa Fe Children’s Museum, Fine Arts for Children and Teens, Habitot Children’s Museum, Drawbridge: An Expressive Arts Program for Homeless Children, The San Francisco Foundation, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and Chicago Children’s Museum. Anna Marie has a M.A. in Museum Studies from John F. Kennedy University and a B.A. in English Literature from Northwestern University. She moved back to Kansas City in 2012 with her husband Caleb, an artist and designer, and her two sons Henry and Roman.

 

 


Episode Transcription

Whitney Hosty:
Welcome to the Grow Your Giving Podcast, powered by the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation. We’re excited to bring you conversations featuring experts in philanthropy, share impactful stories happening in the Kansas City community, elevating the voices of those making a difference around the metro. I’m Whitney Hosty, a senior philanthropic advisor at the Community Foundation and your host of this episode. I’m here with Anna Marie Tutera, executive director of the Kansas City Museum, our city’s leading institution on local and regional history on all things Kansas City. Thank you for joining me today, Anna Marie.

Anna Marie Tutera:
Thank you for having me.

Whitney Hosty:
I was really looking forward to this conversation, especially because I know that I have many memories from growing up in Kansas City and taking trips to the Kansas City Museum. Many of our listeners may have also visited the Fairy Princess at Christmas time or taken field trips to the planetarium. But to start, I was hoping, can you tell us a little bit about the Kansas City Museum and the journey of the museum from its beginning through the present day?

Anna Marie Tutera:
Sure, I’m happy to. It’s a pretty long journey and like any good story, it has trials, and tribulations, and challenges, and successes, and lots and lots of people who have come together to get us where we are today. The Kansas City Museum property was originally built as a private residence for Robert Alexander Long and his family. Robert Alexander Long was a lumber baron, a philanthropist in Kansas City. He originally came from Kentucky and made his way first to Columbus, Kansas before coming to Kansas City, Missouri. He started the Long-Bell Lumber Company and that was headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri. He had two daughters, Loula and Sally, and a wife, Ella. And shortly after they built Corinthian Hall, which is the Kansas City Museum. Several years later they built Longview Farm. And Longview Farm was their model working farm and Corinthian Hall was their primary home, their city residence if you will.

The Longs lived in Corinthian Hall up until 1934. Mrs. Long died in 1928, Mr. Long in 1934, and the two daughters donated the property to the Kansas City Museum Association, which at that time was a group that formed to create Kansas City’s first history museum. That opened in 1940. By 1948, the association asked for financial support from the city, and the city stepped in to purchase the buildings and the grounds while the Kansas City Museum Association continued to manage the museum. So the museum has been around for quite a long time. It originated as a collecting institution and has been collecting since 1939. At this point, we have amassed a collection of more than 100,000 objects that document, and interpret and celebrate Kansas City’s history.

In the late 90s, Union Station became part of the Kansas City Museum story. Union Station and the Kansas City Museum Association came together to manage the property. And then in 2013, that relationship changed. The Kansas City Missouri Parks and Recreation Department stepped in to give the Kansas City Museum a new opportunity to go through comprehensive architectural design planning and master planning and really finally get this project up and running.

So in May 2014, I joined the Kansas City Museum team under the auspices of the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department. And since that time, we have been working on the restoration and renovation of Corinthian Hall, the master planning of the entire property, and building the capacity of the Kansas City Museum Foundation, which is a nonprofit to govern, manage and operate the Kansas City Museum. And that is where we are today. Over a year ago, the Kansas City Museum Foundation took over the governance, management and operations from the park department. We all became nonprofit employees and the foundation also recently became the owner of all of the collection materials that were previously owned by the city. So that large collection that I just mentioned is co-owned by the Kansas City Museum Foundation and Union Station. So as I said, it’s been a long and winding journey to get here, but we are really proud of where we are today.

Whitney Hosty:
Great. Well, thank you for that great summary of over 100 years of history of the museum. For those who haven’t visited the museum or those who maybe haven’t visited in a while, can you help set the scene, tell us a little bit more about the neighborhood, where the museum’s located and how community investment plays a role in the project and in the museum’s continued development.

Anna Marie Tutera:
The Kansas City Museum very proudly is located in the Historic Northeast area of Kansas City, Missouri. And the Historic Northeast is comprised of 6 neighborhoods and more than 35,000 residents. This area was one of the original neighborhoods of Kansas City populated by many early immigrants to Kansas City. And the Kansas City Museum is adjacent to the historic park called Kessler Park and the Scenic Byway called Cliff Drive. We have always worked with the Historic Northeast, with our residents, with our neighbors on the renovation of Corinthian Hall, which is the first building that we have restored and renovated. And what I mean by that is that our neighbors and the Historic Northeast have worked very, very hard over many, many decades to help this museum team and previous museum teams to reimagine the rebirth of the Kansas City Museum.

So for that, we are really thankful because it takes a tremendous amount of support. We are a museum that is located in a neighborhood and so we work really hard to ensure that our programs, our offerings reflect the rich diversity of the Historic Northeast and the overall diversity of the Kansas City metropolitan area. We truly believe that museums can be catalysts for social change, for systemic change and civic unity. We believe that museums can be catalysts for equitable development in the city, and we like to always say that the Kansas City Museum supports the equitable distribution of arts and culture throughout the city. So we are working really hard to ensure that meaningful arts and culture, history and humanities programming and offerings are throughout our city and not just confined to one neighborhood or one geographic district.

Whitney Hosty:
Great. Well thank you for giving us more of the background of the important place for the museum. And you’ve mentioned a little bit about some of the recent renovation and restoration work. Could you tell us a little more about what’s happened to date and what are the plans for the immediate and longer term future with the museum’s property?

Anna Marie Tutera:
Yes. So we have been focused for all of these years on the restoration and renovation of Corinthian Hall, so that’s about 35,000 square feet. When I came to the museum in May of 2014, it was a little daunting because the building had really dilapidated. Now there were some good core renovations that had been made from about 2005 to 2012. So exterior masonry restoration, HVAC system, new elevator, new or restored windows to Corinthian Hall. So some good solid renovations that really helped give us a head start on the more comprehensive work that we had to do. But still, in fact, there were holes in walls, and interior stripped to the studs, and gray paint over the original beautiful colors. There was a lot that needed to be done. We worked with and continue to work with international architects, Atelier, they’re our primary architectural firm and JE Dunn Construction. Our exhibit team is Gallagher & Associates and Kubik Maltbie.

And we came together with Kansas City based historians, and educators, and artists, and curators to create the experience and the exhibits that are now in Corinthian Hall. On the first floor, we worked really hard to ensure that visitors understand the history of the home, who the Long family was, what their impact was in Kansas City, how we did the architectural renovation project.
Second floor is where we have our timeline galleries of Kansas City’s history, takes you through a journey chronologically and thematically of Kansas City’s history.

Third floor continues that experience with all changing galleries as well. So we take you all the way up to present day, which is different from the experience of the past Kansas City Museum visits that people might have had. We are going all the way up to the present day and we are focusing on the often untold stories of Kansas City’s history and its people.

Whitney Hosty:
And I’m curious, are there any other models or examples of this sort of either place-based museum in other communities and or museums that maybe are focused on more of those untold stories? Are there others that you look to outside of Kansas City for inspiration?

Anna Marie Tutera:
Yes, we looked at one in particular that was a model for us was the Museum of the City of New York. And they do something very similar where they focus on the history of the city, but they’re also kind of the first stop that you want to make when you go to New York to learn about all of the other offerings in the city. And they have very dynamic exhibits on what’s currently happening in the city, future developments. So that was a model that was very inspirational for ours. But in general, I would say that we knew from the beginning that we wanted the Kansas City Museum to be very forward and future thinking. We wanted the Kansas City Museum to not only provide educational opportunities about the history of the city, but also create opportunities that would inspire more engaged citizens, especially youth. So we wanted exhibits that are relevant and responsive, that help the visitor understand what they can do today to make an impact in Kansas City and that we are making history every day.

The choices that we make are important. Our individual personal stories are important. Where we come from is essential to who we are. And we believe that creating programs that also focus on identity, and belonging, and engagement are critical for residents of this city. And again, especially for youth. We also have adopted a restorative practices methodology for the development of our exhibits, and our programs and our events at the Kansas City Museum. And what that means is that we understand that if we tell the whole story of our cities’ history, including stories that have often been left out, histories that have been left out, we have an opportunity for healing. We have an opportunity to repair harm, repair relationships, restore trust between individuals and individuals and their communities, and create a more just and unified city in doing so.

And that methodology, I will say is very, very unique to the Kansas City Museum experience. I think we are probably one of, if not the only institution, certainly locally and regionally that is fully embracing this methodology and having it be a guiding principle and value in the creation of our experiences at the Kansas City Museum. And we are currently working with the International Institute of Restorative Practices on a two-year endeavor to really formalize that methodology even in our policies and practices. And I don’t know exactly what that’s going to look like yet, but it’s embedded in our strategic and business planning that we are doing now.

Whitney Hosty:
That’s exciting to hear about the opportunity for Kansas City to be a leader in this space.

Anna Marie Tutera:
Yes.

Whitney Hosty:
And I’d love to go back to your comments too about the museum being forward-looking and future thinking. What do you see and what do you plan for some of those other developments to happen at the museum in the coming years?

Anna Marie Tutera:
Well, we’re really excited because we are working on architectural design and development for a couple more projects. We still have the rest of the property to renovate. So we have a big task ahead of us, but we are going to continue at the pace that we’ve been going. We know that we have to continue to be intentional and we have to be inclusive in our approach like we have been, building more and more trust along the way. And all of that takes time and we have to really embrace the amount of time that it takes to do this type of project really well. Having said that, we have started architectural design on our James Turrell Skyspace, which I’m really excited about, on the restoration and renovation of the conservatory into what we are calling JewelHouse by artist, Summer Wheat and the design of the Carriage House with the first part component of that being the reinterpretation and new design of the Carriage House weather vane that originally sat atop the cupola. We no longer have that beautiful piece, and artist, Ed Dwight is re-imagining that for us.

So we’re going to continue to create spaces of restoration and reflection. The Carriage House in particular will have more interpretation, more exhibits, more space for assembly, space for administrative offices. The core of the Carriage House interpretation will be on Kansas City’s equestrian history. Of course, we will talk about Loula and we will also talk about others who really help to create the industry, the jockeys, the trainers, all of those who came together to make a huge impact in Kansas City’s equestrian history.

So for example, Ed Dwight, his piece will bring together two stories. It’ll bring the story of Loula Long and the story of Tom Bass. And Tom Bass was the first African American to show in the American Royal. He was born into slavery. He was known nationally and internationally, he worked with Loula. So these two beautiful stories are going to come together through that weather vane. And for Summer Wheat’s JewelHouse, we are creating this sacred space, I would say that celebrates the stories of women and girls. It’s going to be this very light filled, beautiful space. We’re bringing back the windows around the perimeter of the conservatory, which was originally used to store winter plants. We’re bringing back the beautiful copper and glass roof and it will be a space for programs and events for everyone. But in addition to that, centering those stories of women and girls.

And then the Skyspace will be a beautiful compliment because it will be an homage to the former planetarium. So I think it will evoke those wonderful memories of that iconic feature. But bring it up to date. The Turrell Skyspace is very much about the vastness of space, and time and history. And the JewelHouse is very much about the vastness of your inner light and your inner story. So they complement each other very beautifully. We plan to restore and renovate the former horse trainer’s home on the property into our hub for our historian and residence program and more administrative offices. And then we have an opportunity on the northeast side of the property where there was a greenhouse originally to create a small outdoor amphitheater to continue our music programming.

Whitney Hosty:
Wonderful. I’m so excited to watch this development happen and for many visits over the next several years. Can you talk a little bit about how does something like this become reality? All of this frustration work and renovations? Maybe talking a little bit about any public-private partnerships that happen to make this happen and what role does philanthropy play in all of this?

Anna Marie Tutera:
Absolutely. So we designed this project to be a public-private partnership between the city of Kansas City, Missouri, and the Kansas City Museum Foundation. And that was essential. The Kansas City Museum does receive public funding annually, which goes to support the operations in part of the Kansas City Museum. We were very fortunate to be included in the 2017 general obligation bond package. We were thrilled that our community voted yes to question number three which allowed geo bond funding to come to the Kansas City Museum, $8 million specifically to Corinthian Hall. Corinthian Hall’s overall project budget was about 22 million. So that 8 million made a huge difference, and it gave us the opportunity to go to private funders and ask for them to partner with the foundation and the city to make this project a reality. Private funding philanthropy is critical for us like it is for any nonprofit, any museum or cultural institution in the city. We could not have done this project without private funding.

We also received an allocation of 1 million through the Missouri Development Finance Board. That was incredibly helpful to incentivize funders and to continue to incentivize them to give. All of these components coming together have helped us get where we are today. And I am really proud of how our community has not given up on the Kansas City Museum project, given us time to regroup, and rebuild and help us reach our vision. And I think that at the core is what has inspired so many people to give is the strong mission and envision of the Kansas City Museum. And I hope that continues as we move through the rest of this project.

Whitney Hosty:
Yes, thank you. Anne Marie, is there anything else you’d like to add today? Anything I haven’t asked you about that our listeners might want to know about the museum?

Anna Marie Tutera:
I would like to add two things. One is we have an amazing board of directors. I am so deeply proud and honored to work with them. I’ve been in the museum field for 25 years now and this is an incredible group of people who are so profoundly dedicated to the museum. We couldn’t be where we are today without them. And also our staff. We have a small but very mighty staff who are dedicated to the museum profession. And that makes all the difference too, having people a part of our team who are committed to history and the humanities and have dedicated their lives professionally to working for museums and cultural institutions.

Because we have all kind of been in this field for quite some time, we recognize that right now it is so important to focus on what we call generational leadership. So we are going to be developing a workforce development program that focuses on paid internships and employment opportunities for 16-year-olds and up because we really want this generation and the next generations to know that there are viable career opportunities in museums and educational institutions and arts and culture. So hoping to share more about that soon.

Whitney Hosty:
Wonderful. That’s exciting. And I’m really inspired by everything that’s happened so far at the museum, and I really hope our listeners get a chance to go in and see the museum. And I just am thrilled to think about these future generations of field trips, that students that will be coming to the museum and hopefully they will develop many of these lifelong memories like so many Kansas Citians have of their visits to the museum. So Anna Marie, thank you so much for joining me today and sharing all about both the exciting past and especially really that bright future for the Kansas City Museum. Listeners that are interested in learning more can visit kansascitymuseum.org. Thank you, Anna Marie.

Anna Marie Tutera:
Thank you, Whitney.