Museums in Lees Summit

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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.

1333 S Noland Rd
Independence,
MO
US

In 1986, aviation enthusiasts Dick McMahon and Larry Brown embarked on a mutually shared dream: find and restore a Lockheed Super G Constellation. Long gone from the friendly skies, the “Connie,” as the aircraft is known to aficionados and flirtatious air traffic controllers, was once a sight to behold––a beautiful mix of mechanical power and graceful design. After much sleuthing, the pair managed to locate a 1958 model in Mesa, Arizona, acquire it from the storage facility in which it lived, and transporting it to Hangar 9 at the Kansas City Downtown Airport for refurbishment.

Thus was established the National Airline History Museum, a passion project that grew over the ensuing decades to fill three museum rooms with airline artifacts and ephemera. Inside, visitors mine the rich history of commercial flight as they view early photographs and exchange the latest jokes about airline food. They even have the opportunity to walk through several of the aircraft in the hangar, including a 1941 Douglas DC-3 and a 1952 Martin 404 in addition to the famed Lockheed Constellation.

201 NW Lou Holland Dr
Kansas City,
MO
US

Wonderscope’s interactive exhibits aim to instill a lifelong fascination with learning in kids aged 10 and younger through hands-on play that mixes education with fun. Elements of art, science, and literature are on display throughout as kids explore themed environments such as TinkerSpace, an otherworldly sanctuary for building structures and contraptions. Raceways explores elements of physics, such as motion and combing your hair like Einstein, whereas H2Oh! moisturizes young minds with interactive lessons on the properties of water. At Wonderscope's newest exhibit, _Ready Vet Go!, children can step into the roles of veterinarian, trainer, and pet owner as they learn the importance of animal ownership and care. Over at the Baby Nursery, kids can assume the role of doctor and learn how to take care of a newborn child.

5700 King St
Shawnee,
KS
US

Inside the lobby of KU Natural History Museum, unsuspecting guests mill underneath a 45-foot-long mosasaur, seemingly oblivious to the marine creature’s razor-sharp teeth and whip-like spine. But the fossilized cretaceous-period animal remains harmless as visitors ogle it and many others housed in the museum’s 50,000-square-foot space. They run their fingers through the grooves in femurs dating back 150 million years, then time travel to the modern day in the panorama of North American animals, a sprawling display of animals frozen in realistic tableaus that often include fast food franchises in the background. Guests can also soak up insect energy in Bugtown, an area filled with human-size worm tunnels and a live bee colony.

1 Jayhawk Blvd
Lawrence,
KS
US

In July 1957, former President Harry S. Truman took his first walk to the newly opened Harry S. Truman Library & Museum and took a seat in his private office. Here he wrote his memoirs; welcomed celebrities, statesmen and presidential hopefuls; trained the first museum docents; greeted schoolchildren; and recorded a welcome message for the Oval Office exhibit that continues to greet visitors. Visitors to the historic archives can see this private space and step into a nearly exact replica of the Oval Office—the construction of which Truman oversaw—as well as the original The Buck Stops Here sign.

Throughout the museum, exhibits feature some of the archives' 30,000 photographs, letters, political memorabilia, and Truman-family possessions. In the first room of The Presidential Years, visitors watch a short film on the president's early life and senatorial career. They then pass through rooms filled with artifacts and multimedia displays focused on global issues that Truman faced: the end of WWII, the formation of NATO, and the beginnings of the Cold War. Inside two interactive auditoriums, audiences step into the president's role and vote on many of the issues he faced, such as the 1948 election, Cold War spies, and whether to throw his next birthday party on an aircraft carrier. In Harry S. Truman: His Life and Times, children explore Truman's pre-presidential years and courtship with his wife through electronic driving games, historical quizzes, and a craft table where they can make their own campaign buttons. They can also inspect artifacts such as a WWI cannon and the president's 1940s car.

The exhibits also touch on and buttress the greater American story. Over the museum’s entryway sprawls Independence and the Opening of the West, a 495-square-foot town-history mural created by Missouri native Thomas Hart Benton. Members are invited to annual events such as the Presidential Wreath Laying Ceremony, Veterans Day Celebration, Members Night at the Museum, Bess's Tea and more. And members are always admitted free to monthly Talkin' Truman programs with the museum's curators and archivists.

500 W US Highway 24
Independence,
MO
US

A glass bridge is suspended above a field of 9,000 red poppies, each flower representing 1,000 soldiers who died in the Great War. This living symbol is one of the many powerful exhibits within the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial, the only museum in the U.S. dedicated exclusively to World War I and dedicated by Congress as the nation's official World War I museum in 2004.

Designed by Ralph Appelbaum, who also lent his expertise to such landmarks as the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the National World War I Museum integrates first-person accounts into a narrative that flows through its permanent and visiting exhibitions. The museum's collection comprises World War I artifacts such as field artillery, a 1917 Harley Davidson motorcycle, and unopened cigarette packs from a 1914 Princess Mary Christmas Box. Beyond the exhibitions, the museum extends to Over There Caf? and a gift shop.

Liberty Memorial, 100 W 26th St
Kansas City,
MO
US