The often overlooked little museum in Old Northeast is undergoing an extensive and costly renovation right now. The Kansas City Museum is still, however, open to the public. But in the absence of a thorough hands-on experience (due to the construction), this museum takes advantage of the latest tools for digital history and offers an excellent online alternative. Kansascitymuseum.org is the museum’s official website.
When I first visited this site what immediately jumped out at me was the GLAMA banner that scrolled past. GLAMA is the Gay and Lesbian Archive of Mid-America. I clicked on the link and was taken to the GLAMA page where I noticed that the museum had launched an oral history initiative. This fits right in with the architecture of participation from Web 2.0. I am very excited to see that a local, small, historical institution has taken the principles of public history to heart.
Back on the museum home page I hovered over the Exhibits & Archives tab and saw that Kansas City Museum was also hosting another collecting initiative called Nuestra Herencia, an initiative “to assemble, preserve, and make accessible a collection of diverse materials that document Kansas City’s Hispanic Latino/a communities.” As a member of this Hispanic community and an enthusiastic historian, this pleases me.
Additionally, there were Facebook, Google, YouTube, and Instagram buttons on every page. There were several collections, archives, and data bases available for public viewing. And volunteering or participating as a community curator was suggested throughout the website. This tells me that while this museum may be physically small and often times overlooked, the high quality and rich content, and the several different ways that this museum reaches out to the community speak volumes of what century they reside in. The difference in a decade, when it comes to technology, is immense and institutions that implement practices that encourage active public participation with others, with the museum, and especially with technology, appear to be the most successful.
There is always room for improvement, though, and the wonderful thing about Web 2.0 technology is that change is inherent in its principles. Perpetual Beta is a Web 2.0 concept that museums can implement into their best practices. The Kansas City Museum is physically undergoing change ironically. As far as suggestions go, however, I was very impressed with this site. They appear to have their Web 2.0 bases covered. When I visited this past summer the docent told me about the renovation and how expensive it was, so, my suggestion would be to include a money raising initiative to help with the cost. All I saw was a Donate button at the bottom of the home page. But, perhaps they have a wealthy benefactor at their disposal.