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KC council approves plan to separate museum from Union Station

Updated: 2013-12-06T00:01:02Z

By MATT CAMPBELL

The Kansas City Star

The Kansas City Council on Thursday approved an agreement to transfer management of the Kansas City Museum and its collections from Union Station to the city parks department.

The museum collections of tens of thousands of items, from Indian artifacts to society ladies’ gowns, will remain together but the staff that tends to them will be city employees instead of working for Union Station.

The city also will assume management and programming duties for Corinthian Hall, the publicly owned mansion at 3218 Gladstone Blvd. that has been the longtime home to the Kansas City Museum.

The agreement was praised by all sides, after a period of tense relations between Union Station and some who believed the station did not serve the museum’s best interests. Union Station has managed the museum since the two entities merged with the opening of Science City.

“This is a long-awaited resolution to a somewhat extended and difficult partnership,” said Councilwoman Jan Marcason.

Councilman Scott Wagner said it was never intended with the merger of the museum and Union Station that one entity would get more attention than the other.

“What was recognized (later) was that the Kansas City Museum was not getting the attention that some people thought it should have,” Wagner said before the 12-0 vote by the council.

But Mayor Sly James, in a statement released by Union Station, offered thanks for the years of station management.

“I’m grateful to Union Station leaders for their faithful stewardship of the museum and for the professional manner in which they have managed the Corinthian Hall campus and curated the collection for so many years,” James said.

Union Station’s executive committee had previously approved the new agreement, which takes effect in May. George Guastello, president of Union Station Kansas City, said Corinthian Hall will be best-served under the new arrangement.

“It makes sense that this city-owned building and the collection be managed by the city’s parks department,” Guastello said Thursday in a statement.

The parks department also has overall authority over other city-owned assets such as the zoo, the Liberty Memorial and Starlight Theatre. They are operated by private entities under agreements with the city.

It is envisioned that a nascent Kansas City Museum Foundation may someday play a similar role with the museum and its collections.

Union Station will continue to own the majority of items in the collections. They will remain in professional, climate-controlled storage space at the station or in leased underground space.

The city will retain approximately $1.4 million generated by a city property tax to support the museum. That money has been administered by Union Station. The city will pay the station $131,000 a year for space at the station.

Under the new arrangement, both the city and Union Station will be able to display the museum collections.

Corinthian Hall, considered a jewel in the city’s old Northeast area, has undergone more than $10 million in building renovations paid for by the city in recent years. It could cost $20 million or more to finish the interior.

The new foundation will seek to help raise those funds.

To reach Matt Campbell, call 816-234-4902 or send email to mcampbell@kcstar.com

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