TOPEKA (KSNT) – The Kansas Historical Society has nearly raised the $6 million needed for renovations to the Kansas Museum of History in Topeka.
The Kansas Historical Foundation has raised 97% of the $6 million needed to install new exhibits in the Kansas Museum of History, which hasn’t seen any major changes since its opening approximately 35 years ago.
“The museum originally opened from 1984 to 1986. So much has changed since then and the new exhibits will bring new technologies and incorporate new research. We are very excited about what is to come,” a spokeswoman for the Kansas Historical Society Bobbie Athon said.
The museum has partnered with Kansas City-based design, build and tech firm Dimensional Innovations to create the new exhibits. The Kansas Historical Society said its goal with the new exhibits is to tell the stories of Kansas in a way that resonates in the 21st century.
Some of the new exhibits the Kansas Historical Society has planned to create are:
- “Bleeding Kansas” – Stand on stage and deliver one of President Abraham Lincoln’s speeches against the spread of slavery to Kansas. You’ll even get a response from “the crowd”.
- “Gathering of Cultures” – Immerse yourself in an archeological excavation of a 200-year-old Kansas village of 700 people led by Chief Ka-he-ga-wa-ta-ne-ga. The village was located between the Kansas River and Soldier Creek where white settlers eventually encroached on their already diminished lands, dramatically changing the way of life in Kansas.
- “Making a Home” – Step into a fully-furnished dugout in southwest Kansas where your family of eight has staked your claim and built your house out of natural resources. This means at any time snakes and rodents are likely to fall through your roof.
- “Making a Living” – Learn about how the interactions between humans and nature in Kansas have given the state great successes and many challenges like the Dust Bowl and grasshopper plagues. Discover how wide open skies and a central location in the country created an important aviation center and transportation hub, or how its fertile soil and grasslands made Kansas the leading economy in agriculture and cattle.
- “It Happens First in Kansas” – See all the ways Kansans have used the power of their words and actions to change society throughout history. For example, Kansas women received full voting rights eight years before the 19th amendment. A lesser-known example of people from the state changing society is when Dr. Samuel Crumbine of Kansas popularized the flyswatter, urging people to swat flies to fight the spread of disease. Learn more about public health by trying your hand at the fly swatting carnival game in this exhibit.
- “Making History” – Step into a hall with large digital changing images of the faces of Kansans, their voices, accomplishments and personal items. Photos of President Dwight Eisenhower, photographer Gordon Parks and those less recognized like Sonia Domsch will be displayed. You can also place your own pictures and stories on the wall.
Athon said renovations start Sept. 4, 2022, and she anticipates that the museum will reopen with the new exhibits around December 2023 or January 2024.
“In September, our museum staff members will begin the process of dissembling the exhibits, cataloging, photographing and preparing objects for storage or future display,” Athon said. “In the meantime, there is infrastructure work being done to repair deterioration on the plaza entrance and visitors will be directed as that work continues.”
The museum will still welcome people interested in delving into family and community history to the State Archives research room, which will remain open from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. The research room is open from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on the last Saturday of the month, according to Athon.
The 2.5-mile nature trail will also remain open from dawn to dusk and welcomes visitors to explore the surrounding prairie and woodlands areas.
The Kansas Museum of History will offer free admission from Aug. 17 to Sept. 3 in its last two weeks before closing its doors for renovations.