For all of the objects and documents from World War I that are displayed in the national museum in Kansas City, more than nine times as many are stored away and out of sight.
But officials announced Wednesday they had raised more than $5 million from philanthropic foundations to create a new exhibit gallery within the Liberty Memorial for objects from the local collection as well as for traveling national and international exhibits.
The gifts also will allow the National World War I Museum and Memorial to improve the grounds for community and corporate events with landscaping and enhanced lighting.
Matthew Naylor, president and CEO of the museum, said the new 4,000-square-foot gallery will enrich the institution’s work.
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“What it will allow us to do is to bring to Kansas City exhibitions and objects and artifacts that would not otherwise come here,” Naylor said. “We have the most diverse collection in the world. We are uniquely positioned to say to museums around the world, ‘Let us be your partner in the United States to tell your story.’ ”
Between traveling exhibits, the Liberty Memorial Association will be able to display more of its own material not usually available to the public.
The gallery will be at the east end of the concourse that runs outside the main museum. The space currently doesn’t even have a floor. A two-story void was left unfinished for future use when the underground museum opened in 2006.
The museum will pour a floor to create a modern exhibit space with climate control. The target opening date is early 2018. It is anticipated that exhibits there will be included with admission to the museum.
The Liberty Memorial Association board launched a capital campaign for the projects in 2014, tied to the ongoing centennial of the First World War.
Contributions to the gallery fund included $2.1 million from the Hall Family Foundation, $1 million each from the Enid and Crosby Kemper Foundation and the Jack F. and Glenna Y. Wylie Foundation, $500,000 each from the Marion and Henry Bloch Family Foundation and the Sunderland Foundation, and $250,000 from the Sosland Foundation.
The Missouri Development Finance Board also granted the museum $1.8 million in tax credits to support the gallery project.
The museum will use part of the donations to build a $1 million maintenance endowment for the new gallery.
The National World War I Museum already has three levels of exhibit space. It mounts temporary displays in Memory Hall and Exhibit Hall, which flank the tower on the memorial’s deck, and there is wall gallery space on the research level below the main museum. A show about the 1916 battles of the Somme and Verdun, two of the bloodiest campaigns of the war, opens Friday in Exhibit Hall.