Discovering Kansas City: Liberty Memorial

I’ve decided that I need to explore this new city that I’m in as part of my own personal growth, enjoyment and fulfillment. So I’m starting a mini-series called “Discovering Kansas City”. I’ll bring you some of the highlights of things that I do that are uniquely Kansas City.

My dad was here for 5 days for New Year. We did a lot of lounging around the house. Hanging things. Eating.

The thing is, I didn’t know what to do with him because I’m new to Kansas City so I don’t know a lot of places! When I first got here I joined a Meet Up group geared towards new comers to the area and they had a posting about a new exhibit at the National World War I Museum: Liberty Memorial. I told my dad about it and he got super excited. What is it with boys and war?

I like museums in general (I kinda enjoy knowledge) and so I figured “what the heck!” and we went.

The financial:

Admission is $12 for adults, $10 with adults with student ID, $6 for youth, $10 for senior citizens. Of course, active and veteran military get in free. Also, your admission is for TWO consecutive days, not just one.

What I expected:

Let me start off by saying a expected very little from this museum. I thought it would just be some random collections of personal memorabilia, lots of random placards of information, your run of the mill type museum that you might find in a two-bit town.


What I got:

First off, the museum is huge. We arrived around noon and stayed until they closed at 5pm. We still didn’t get through one of the main exhibits or the special exhibit they have now “Man and the Machine”.

On the opening level you’re greeted by a lot of very knowledgeable and friendly volunteers. The ones they have will walk right up to you and tell you about stuff you’re looking at. We were instructed to first go up to the tower since it was open air and would get cold up there as the day went on.

So we took an elevator ride and a quick 45 stair walk up to the top of the tower. Thankfully it was a clear day and we got a fantastic view of downtown Kansas City. My only complaint here is that I wish that they would have maps of the area highlighting what you’re seeing if you’re a visitor. I recall maps like this at the top of the Sear’s tower in Chicago and the Empire State Building in New York. It would have been nice for this tower to do the same. It is a 360 degree view of the city and absolutely breathtaking. I’m including the pictures I took on my phone so you can see that I’m not exaggerating on how gorgeous the view was.

We stayed up looking out over the tower for around 15-20 minutes before heading back down. From the upper level you have access to two different exhibits. One is the “Memory Hall” and the other “Exhibit Hall”. We went in to Memory Hall.

In Memory Hall there are a lot of replica war maps. Some, like the one that showed the advancing troops, was kinda cool. But for the most part the highlight of this exhibit was the personal items. There were around 25-30 cases containing personal objects from people who fought in WWI. Then next to their items is their story of the war, from their diaries and such. I thought this was so neat. I’m all about putting a personal element on to war stories – makes it more real then stats and facts. So I loved reading about the individual things people were doing and thinking. And it wasn’t just American stories. There were stories of French military, German military, women, african americans. The diversity of stories was so interesting.

We then went back downstairs to the main museum entrance. To start out there is a 15 minute movie that starts by explaining the how and why of WWI. What started it? Who was involved? It is a very well put together video and ends with the 1 week in which most of the European nations at the time started declaring war on each other.

The US punching Kaiser Wilhelm in the face - Debt Ninja would be proud!

Then you leave the movie to enter the 1914-1917  display cases. The display cases touch on every aspect of the war. Why it happened, how it happened, replicas of trenches, clothing, cannons, rations, propaganda. The cases are so well put together and the descriptions of them so interesting. You get such an amazing feel for what the war was like.

After the 1917 room you enter in to another movie theater. This theater is amazing. Below the screen is a replica of “No Man’s Land” that is illuminated at different points in the movie. The point of this movie is to summarize what has gone on in the past 3 years (1914-1917) and to explain the how and why America got involved in the war. This is another 15 minute movie and because of the set up of the screen and the visual effects from the “No Man’s Land” I would consider this a 2.5D production. It is amazing.

After this you move in to the 1917-1919 room. This room starts by showing the American propaganda, telling the story of how America mobilized for the war. You could feel the sacrifices of the people in the exhibits. One of my favorite ones in this section was a display case on the medicine available in the field to the wounded. They had quite a few medicine kits that reminded me of old fashioned Chemistry sets. The room continues to explain the American involvement in the war, how the war ended, and the armament agreement that is reached. The room ends setting up the conditions that existed in Germany to start what will later become WWII.

The only thing that I would have added to this is that there should have been a third theater constructed (by splitting the first theater in to two separate rooms) to have a 3rd video summarizing the end of the war. This is the only area of these exhibits that I thought was lacking. There wasn’t a cohesive “boom” at the end like we had set up for us at the beginning and the middle to understand how the war began.

Why I’m going back:

Like I said, my tickets are good two consecutive days so I plan on going back tomorrow to see the special exhibit (Man and the Machine) that I missed and as well to see the Exhibit Hall which I also missed. This museum is definitely a full day affair and worth every dollar we spent. I was amazed by the quality of the exhibits. I wasn’t interested in the least in WWI when I walked in the building, but left with an amazing appreciation for the history of it. If you’re ever in Kansas City I would recommend seeing the Liberty Memorial. This is truly an amazing gem in this city!

SS4BC Rating: 5/5


8 Responses to Discovering Kansas City: Liberty Memorial

  1. Hah. I’ve lived here 27 years and never been to the Memorial. Oops.

    Although, feel free to ask me for suggestions on restaurants or other places like that! We have a couple of our favorites around town that newbies might not know about. Also … if you like beer, you must go on the Boulevard Brewery tour. It’s free and you get 4 free beers at the end … you just have to book it like 2 days in advance. It’s worth it though!

    If you have a chance to get to Lawrence (maybe you already have, I’m not sure what university you work at), definitely do it! Lawrence is an awesome college town.

    • SS4BC says:

      Oh yah, I’ve been to Lawrence. 🙂

      Good recommendation on Boulevard! I’ll have to make my reservation!

      When you and the boy get a free weekend, go to Liberty Memorial. It is fantastic!

  2. whoops … I meant 2 months in advance … not 2 days.

  3. A nice reminder that there’s cool stuff anywhere you happen to be.

    If I ever make it to Kansas City, I will definitely check it out.

    I may steal your idea for some stuff in my area. Blogging would make a good excuse to visit stuff that I always mean to and never make time for.

    • SS4BC says:

      Please do! I love hearing about the cool things around the globe! I mean really, one person’s home is another person’s vacation destination. 😉

  4. that’s a pretty cool idea – to discover the city you live in. There’s lots of things in my city i’ve never done.

    • SS4BC says:

      I know! When I lived in San Diego I did very little of the touristy things there – and that is a top vacation place for most people. How is it that we forget that our own backyards are filled with treasure? =)

  5. Pingback: Want a Free Trip to the Museum? « Small Steps for Big Change

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