Known for its history as a pioneer town and home to former president Harry S. Truman, Independence welcomes visitors to its storied sites, making them more accessible with free trolley rides. Tour the 1859 Jail and Marshal's Home and Museum to glimpse a dwelling for law breakers next to a dwelling for a law keeper, and the clandestine tryst between the abodes that resulted in a museum. The Bingham-Waggoner Estate preserves many of the original art and furnishings of the famed Bingham and Waggoner families, while the National Frontier Trails Museum hails the starting point of the westbound pioneers with bronzed pieces of nuts, raisins, and chocolate bits tracing a path westward.
When writer Richard Faulk set out to catalog the nation's oddest corners for his book Gross America, Leila's Hair Museum was an obvious choice. There, Leila Cohoon preserves and furthers the off-kilter artform of hair-based crafts, which stretches back to the 1700s and beyond. In a piece for CNN.com, Faulk notes that, in pre-photography days, Victorian artisans would "[weave] jewelry and decorative lace out of human hair" as a means of remembering departed loved ones, with "successive generations [sometimes adding] to the lacework to create a genealogical record, much like a family bible". In addition to these personal mementoes, Leila's collection includes 400 hair-based wreaths dating before 1900, and numerous reliquaries said to contain the hair of Mary, mother of Jesus, St. Anne, grandmother of Jesus, and pieces of the cross. Hair pieces belonging to Michael Jackson, Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, Lincoln, and other presidents also reside here. Although not hair-related, the museum also features a brooch that is said to contain threads from the coat of Joseph, father of Jesus. The quirky outpost has attracted the attention of racontours other than Faulk, too--noted gadabout Anthony Bourdain also paid a visit during an episode of his show No Reservations.
Rekindle childhood memories as you walk through the National Toy and Miniature Museum. This 38-room Italianate mansion turned museum holds an impressive toy collection with over 300,000 items. The museum is from the combine collections of lifelong friends and collectors, Barbara Hall Marshall and Mary Harris Francis. As one of the world’s largest private collection of toys and miniatures, this museum welcomes over 25,000 guests each year. Walk into this open mansion and view the world’s largest marble collection or peek into one of the antique miniature doll houses. Explore the other rooms that feature collections of miniature paintings, lovable teddy bears, and much more.
Founded in 1990, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is a privately funded, non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the rich history of African-American Baseball. Experience a tour of multi-media displays, museum store, hundreds of photographs, and artifacts dating from the late 1800s through the 1960s.
Grabbing the top spot in CityVoter’s 2009 Best Museum poll, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art serves as Kansas City’s intersection of art, culture, and history. Boasting more than 33,500 pieces and art objects, the museum’s vast collections are organized by period, geography, and medium and feature everything from photographs to sculpture to haunted portraits with eyes that follow visitors around the room. Rotating exhibitions encourage return visits, like a sentient boomerang that grabs your hand and refuses to let go. The current exhibit, Solitary: Alienation in Modern Life, explains away loneliness with works from artists including Henri Matisse, Otto Dix, and Paul Klee, who moonlighted as a self-help guru and was the first to posit that men and women may be space aliens hailing from separate planets. This Saturday, the museum opens two new exhibitions, Through African Eyes: The European in African Art, 1500 to Present and Romancing the West: Alfred Jacob Miller in the Bank of America Collection, which members get to see for free.
This duo of history-rich houses showcase antebellum architectural styles, while providing insight into the mores of the era. With four tour tickets total, the historically inclined can visit each house twice or bring a friend along for each visit, while family memberships net unlimited entries for the nuclear unit, along with advance invites to special society-only events. A Greek revival-style home from 1858, the John Wornall House beckons history lovers in to watch costumed reenactors living in the past, where they play period-specific video games while drinking period-specific Mountain Dew. Regular special events at the house include paranormal investigations by local ghost hunters and recreations of the house’s past as a Civil War hospital. Dogs can sprint across the lush grounds while their two-legged companions waft in luscious scents from the herb garden, which contains a variety of delicate plants used in medicines and recipes.