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Kansas Museum of History

Memorial Hall, 1914The Museum's parent agency is the Kansas Historical Society, founded in 1875 by newspaper editors and publishers. In 1879 the state enacted legislation recognizing the Society as the trustee of Kansas' history.

Begun during the earliest years of the Society, the Museum originally was located in the Kansas statehouse. These quarters soon became overcrowded, and the Museum and other Historical Society departments relocated to the then-new Memorial Hall in downtown Topeka in 1914. The first curator was hired that same year.  Displays continued to expand with the collection holdings.

As the Historical Society grew throughout the 20th century, both in collections and staff, responsibilities were divided among several divisions. One of these was the Kansas Museum of History, charged with managing three-dimensional objects.

Kansas Museum of HistoryThe Museum experienced a period of great growth during the 1980s. The state legislature appropriated money for a new building in northwest Topeka with more space for exhibitions and storage. The Museum moved to this site where the Potawatomi Mission was located. In 1986 the Junior League of Topeka launched an effort to open Discovery Place, a hands-on gallery for children. The division hired an experienced, professional staff. National awards were received for the Museum's interpretive exhibits and programming.

Today the exhibits and collections depict the full spectrum of Kansas history. Particular strengths include the Bleeding Kansas era, with an outstanding group of objects associated with John Brown, and Civil War flags, including one of the nation's largest groupings of African American regimental flags. Objects represent all facets of Kansans' lives, from all periods of the state's history. A Real People. Real Stories. gallery featuring seven Kansans was added in 2014, along with a remodeled Museum Store.

When the Museum closed its doors for major renovations in September 2022, it was a top Kansas tourist attraction, among the most-visited museums in the state, and the only one to tell the story of the state's history. It was voted one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas History by the citizens of Kansas.

Entry: Kansas Museum of History

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: November 2012

Date Modified: January 2023

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.