Eighty-one years ago, Trans World Airlines opened the doors to its headquarters at 10 Richards Road, what is now the location of Wheeler Downtown Airport. Today, the TWA Museum opens in the same location.
Pam Blaschum and Mary Ellen Miller are former TWA flight attendants turned museum directors. The two women say they are leading the museum to preserve the spirit and history of the company and its employees.
“To people like us, it is important because this is our life,” Blaschum said.
Blaschum and Miller were excited to find space for the museum in the company’s original headquarters, which is owned by Signature Flight Support and contains its offices.
“This building has a lot of history and a lot of meaning; a lot of aviation firsts had their inception right here in Kansas City,” Miller said.
The artifacts in the museum are primarily donations from former employees, including vintage uniforms and airplane equipment.
Blaschum said the largest donation came from a man who picked up a TWA pen at a garage sale and then couldn’t stop finding more things for his growing TWA collection. She said that after the man’s death the collection recently was donated to the museum.
This is the fifth home for the TWA museum collection since 1985. The museum was most recently housed in the KCI-Expo center.
The museum has a separate room dedicated to the three TWA founders: Paul Richter, Jack Frye and Walter Hamilton. Richter’s granddaughter, Karen Holden Young, lives in Prairie Village and has been a frequent volunteer at the museum.
“I just think it is appropriate to bring it back to where it originated,” Young said.
Young’s mother, Ruth Richter Holden, who lives in California now, said she is thrilled about the museum opening and that the most important part to her is that it is being run by former TWA employees.
“It is just fantastic that these women are so dedicated, it just reflects the spirit of TWA,” Holden said.
She is glad that so many former employees are donating their belongings to the museum. She plans to donate her father’s personal documents that catalog the company’s early days as well as recordings of the company’s founders discussing the future of the airline, which sold its assets to American Airlines in 2001.
Blaschum and Miller said there are a few things still missing from the collection. They are waiting for a memorial to the employees who died 16 years ago on Flight 800, which crashed shortly after takeoff from New York. The memorial is currently in New York.
Also absent is a TWA plane, which Young would like to put in a hangar for visitors to see.
The museum opens its doors today at 5:30 p.m. for a ribbon cutting ceremony followed by an open house reception until 7 p.m.
The museum’s regular hours will be 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.