National Archives of Kansas City Big Display ends soon

HURRY! National Archives of Kansas City’s big display ends soon.

As editor of KC Studio, I have the chance to travel the city and see some of the coolest displays and exhibits. One of these neat displays is at the National Archives of Kansas City called “It’s Big: the 75th Anniversary of the National Archives.” We are the location for the Central Plains Region — Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska.

The Archives has been open in its current facility next door to Union Station since late May. The facility features a welcome center, two exhibit galleries, expanded facilities for researchers and programs for children and adults. We took advantage of one of those children’s programs. I am a Girl Scout leader for a troop of Juniors. With a desire to see more than just the school where we hold meetings, the girls and I head off for a monthly outing.

Of course, I like to be productive with my outings if possible so I remembered the Archives staff had a Girl Scout Day in early October. Well, we had just started scouting so it was a little early for my girls. However, the staff at the Archives is accommodating. I had to schedule an outing and we were all set. I didn’t have my full troop, but those who attended enjoyed seeing the considerable stacks (visible use will be about 50,000 cubic feet of records). The girls were amazed to understand that this is only a fraction of what materials are available here in the Midwest.

Like traditional visitors, the scouts entered the Welcome Center and got to experience “Name Dropping.” There are famous signatures like Buffalo Bill Cody, Abraham Lincoln, and Thomas Edison. They took rubbings of those names home.

After a walk down a grand staircase, the girls found themselves at the Concourse Gallery. “It’s Big! (75th Anniversary of NARA)” offers some big documents, big ideas, big personalities and big events. One example is the landmark case, Brown vs. the Topeka Board of Education. The documents are from the lower courts. Artifacts and photographs include an antique clock-face gas pump, a counterfeit fifty-cent bill, and an autographed picture of Russian Revolutionary Leon Trotsky posing with a group of young Americans.

Through its seven sections, the exhibit highlights the immense variety of events and people chronicled in the archives. The sections focus on some of the big themes, big events, and big personalities that appear in the history of our area: transportation, westward expansion, the break-up of Standard Oil, Brown v. Board of Education, the 1918 flu epidemic, personalities, and crime. The girls, with the help of a couple Archives employees, worked on a scavenger hunt through the exhibit. It was a good time. The girls made me laugh because they all liked learning about the crimes and cons that occurred around the Kansas City area. My daughter thought the counterfeit money was neat. Perhaps I should be worried, but I also think if a child finds something he or she likes in history, as adults we have to appreciate that they like it.

The troop ended their time at the Archives by making posters with Girl Scout images, the sorts that people can find at the Archives.


Kellie Houx

Kellie Houx is a writer and photographer. A graduate of Park University, she has 20 years of experience as a journalist. As a writer, wife and mom, she values education, arts, family and togetherness.

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