KCs lost treasures in national spotlightBy TIM ENGLE
The Kansas City Star
Plenty of artifacts can be found in museums, but what about the cool old stuff gathering dust in our attics and basements?
Today, three dozen or so such items like a medicine bag that could have been Geronimos, a puppet with a past, a medical journal made of human skin and the people attached to them will go before cameras at Union Station. Theyll end up on Americas Lost Treasures, a new National Geographic Channel show filming this week in Kansas City.
The series is visiting 10 cities in hopes of unearthing family heirlooms and other objects with historical importance and unexpected value that deserve an audience in other words, things that belong in a museum.
The shows format sounds similar to PBS Antiques Roadshow: Owners will tell what they know about the items, experts will be on hand and some on-the-spot appraisals will be made. (The show is not looking for any additional items, and the taping is not open to the public.)
But in each city KC is the sixth stop Lost Treasures will winnow the assortment down to just five or six objects and try to dig up the story each has to tell. One item will be declared the winner and score its owner a sizable cash prize.
Unlike the PBS show, youll see us do all the work, says Lost Treasures co-executive producer Gayle Gilman. Sometimes an objects owner will go along as the show consults local historians or runs forensic tests watching as we figure out the mystery.
In Kansas City, the medicine bag that might have belonged to Indian leader Geronimo will be investigated by the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Arts Gaylord Torrence, senior curator of American Indian art. The show will film Thursday in the Nelsons American Indian gallery.
Extraordinary American Indian objects real treasures of artistic and historical merit still appear on occasion, Torrence says. Most often, as in the case of the pieces Ill be seeing, theyve descended in families who have cared for them over generations.
Other items expected to be shown off at Union Station: an old copy of the Kansas state constitution, glass slides from the Bronx Zoo, a jacket once owned by actress Mary Tyler Moore, an Oklahoma circuit preachers diary, a Union soldiers flag and letters from the Civil War, and a mantel clock that won a worlds fair grand prize.
Russell and Eileen Weiss of Lees Summit will be bringing a decorative vase produced by one Edward Lycett in Brooklyn, N.Y., in the late 19th century. For the Weisses, who own the online-only Timber Hills Antiques, this is not a case of an heirloom turning up in a garage. They bought the piece of pottery six months ago from a woman in California.
Its just a rarity in itself, Russell Weiss says. We know its good and we know its valuable, but if theyre looking for Jesse James stuff, this isnt it.
Late last year, when the show announced it would come here, a producer circulated a wish list of sorts. It mentioned items connected to outlaw Jesse James, the Pony Express and Missouri River steamboats things that are more familiar to a national audience, not This is Kansas City history, says Christopher Leitch, director of the Kansas City Museum at Corinthian Hall.
The shows producers know theyll hear some colorful stories, although chances are some of the tales wont hold up to expert scrutiny.
On Saturday, the shows action will move to Corinthian Hall, where two finalist objects will be announced. Then it will be just one, that episodes lost treasure. In reality show parlance, this is the reveal, kind of like when the Bachelor hands out his roses.
That last object standing will net a $10,000 honorarium for its owner and will eventually become part of a traveling exhibit organized by National Geographic. The cash is basically a lenders fee.
So far, by the way, neither the show nor its experts have laid eyes on the lost treasures. People sent in narratives describing their items and what they know of their histories, along with photos.
The hour-long show is expected to begin airing in April on cables National Geographic Channel. Its hosts are not-quite-household-names Kinga Philipps and Curt Doussett, actors whove also done TV hosting gigs.
Gilman is hoping Americas Lost Treasures will ultimately be picked up for a second season so it can visit more cities and find more treasures.
As for the Weisses, they say they havent really been rehearsing for their and their vases moment in the spotlight.
Theres only one story, Russell Weiss says. We really dont know what theyre going to ask us. The only thing they tell you to do is kind of practice your story so you dont freeze.