kansas city museums roll out the all-star red carpet

Major League Baseball’s 2012 All-Star Game has descended upon Kansas City and the festivities officially kick off today. Considering the last time this game was played in my hometown I was but a mere fetus, this is a big deal.

Kansas City has a long and impressive baseball history and I’m proud of my family’s place in it. I attended my first (and only) All-Star game in 1986 in Houston, Texas. My father, Frank White, Jr., was second baseman for the Kansas City Royals and making his fifth and final All-Star game appearance.

That game has special meaning to me not only because the Royals were defending World Champions but also because my father pinch-hit for Lou Whitaker in the seventh inning and turned an 0-2 pitch into a home run, effectively clinching victory for the American League.

What, you didn’t know I was a baseball nerd too? ūüėČ

All-Star Summer is Kansas City’s opportunity to show the world that while it’s known for fountains, jazz and BBQ, there are so many amazing things that make it a great place to call home, including a diverse array of museums, some of which have sports-themed events and exhibitions marking the occasion:

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

  • “They Were All Stars” (through August 31, 2012), an exhibition honoring Hispanic and African-American Negro Leagues players who transitioned to Major League Baseball and were selected as All-Stars. Other All-Star events include a town hall-style meet and greet with some of the players featured in the exhibition on July 8 from Noon – 1:30 p.m. and a discussion and book signing on July 7 at Noon with author Sharon Robinson, daughter of baseball legend Jackie Robinson.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

National World War I Museum

  • “World War I All-Stars: Sports & the Inter-Allied Games” (through December 31, 2012) focuses on the little-known competitive sporting event held in 1919 following the end of World War I in an effort to unify Allied soldiers. American baseball players and other famous athletes who were World War I veterans are also featured.

Kansas City Museum

  • The city’s history museum is offering Kansas City baseball history trolley tours on July 7 & 9. Departing from Union Station, the tours feature stories about well-known players who made their homes and living in Kansas City and visits to sites of historic baseball significance.

Harry S. Truman Library & Museum

  • Considering the 2012 All-Star Game is being played in Kauffman Stadium, located at the Harry S. Truman Sports Complex, it makes sense that the Library & Museum offers “Presidential Pitch: Harry Truman and Baseball” (through July 15), an exhibition that features baseball-related artifacts and documents from the Truman Administration. For a closer examination, check out archivist Randy Sowell’s presentation, “Truman and Baseball: A Presidential Pastime” on July 7 from 11:00 a.m. – Noon.

Visitors: If you want to know where to go and what to do during your stay or have trouble deciphering whether you’re in Kansas or Missouri, tweet your questions with the #KC hashtag so the kind folks at the Social Media Command Center can help you out.

kansas city museum style guide

True or false? Museums are stoic, boring, monoliths full of objects someone with an advanced degree has deemed priceless, musty, old houses crammed to the rafters with some dead rich guy’s stuff or so-called historic places where fatigued volunteers endlessly drone on about how the founding mothers made their own butter.

Luckily, that is entirely untrue, particularly in the Kansas City Metropolitan Area where you can experience an astonishing array of museums of all subjects and sizes.

Researchers far more brilliant than me have spent untold hours determining what type of visitor enjoys a particular type of museum. Usually those studies focus on attributes like whether folks want to be their own guide, use interactive doo-dads or have someone tell them what they’re looking at. It is my belief that what type of museum you choose to visit can¬†have as¬†much to do with your personality as the methods in which you experience it.¬†¬† So for your future museum-visiting pleasure, I have compiled a list of local treasure repositories guaranteed to please any disposition.¬† This list is by no means exhaustive, but it hopefully offers a jumping-off point as you¬†begin exploring¬†the diverse and fascinating museums in and around Kansas City.

the art historian

Anyone who fancies themselves an art aficionado¬†should head to The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri.¬† Located a stone’s throw away from the Country Club Plaza and celebrating its 75th birthday, this museum has a vast collection that spans the breadth of humanity’s artistic achievements.¬† Practice your museum pose (hands clasped behind your back, head nodding contemplatively) while you explore the Steven Holl-designed¬†Bloch Building, check out the newly-reinstalled¬†Egyptian, Greek and Roman galleries or stroll through the Kansas City Sculpture Park¬†[Note:¬† Please refrain from trying to impress your friends with falsified art facts as you never know who may be listening.¬†¬† Seriously–don’t be that guy.]¬†And definitely make time to indulge your Italian-villa fantasies while noshing on Rozzelle Court Restaurant’s delectable desserts.¬†

the tim burton fan

If your tastes lean toward the surreal, unique and slightly macabre, make your way to nearby St. Joseph, Missouri and visit the Glore¬†Psychiatric Museum, a site that details the history of the facility originally known as “State Lunatic Asylum No. 2.”¬† Its namesake founder, George Glore, spent 41 years working in the Missouri mental health system and started the museum in the hopes of eradicating the negative image often associated with mental health patients.¬† Items include a bed sheet used by a patient to communicate via embroidery, barbaric “tranquilizer” chairs,¬† the contents of a patient’s stomach who compulsively swallowed items such as buttons and safety pins and examples of the hospital’s groundbreaking therapy programs.¬†

the history channel addict

Those who¬†are¬†fascinated by military history will find themselves at home in the National World War I Museum, located at Liberty Memorial in Kansas City Missouri’s Penn Valley Park.¬† To enter the museum you cross a glass bridge over a field of 9,000 poppies, each flower symbolizing the death of 1,000 soldiers (nine million died before the war ended.)¬† It has the distinction of being the only museum in the United States dedicated to that period in history as told by the people who experienced it.¬† Life-sized trench replicas, war propaganda, weapons and oral histories come together brilliantly in one of Kansas City’s most cherished landmarks.

the b-bopper


Jazz heads need to hoof it down to the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City, Missouri’s 18th & Vine District.¬† Even if you’re not a jazz fan (warning: you may soon find yourself downloading scads of it from iTunes), this distinctly American musical art form whose influences can be seen in blues, b-bop, gospel and rhythmic pop, is thought by many to be the soundtrack of the United States’ collective history.¬† You can view musical instruments, photographs and, of course, listen to some of the maestros of jazz such as Charlie “Bird” Parker in one of the neighborhoods¬†where the distinctive Kansas City Jazz sound was formed.¬† The exhibition “Atlantic Diaspora: The Musical and Social Influences of Africans in Mexico and the United States” is a must-see (ending September 30, 2010).¬† Don’t forget the nearby Blue Room jazz club containing artifacts from the jazz era and featuring national and local jazz acts as well as spoken-word performances (finger-snaps expected and appreciated.)