Museum-Union Station split could affect artifacts

KANSAS CITY (AP) — A collection of tens of thousands of papers, photographs and other objects faces an uncertain future if the Kansas City Museum splits away from Union Station.

The idea of severing the contract with Union Station came to a head last month when Union Station fired Christopher Leitch, who had been the on-site director of the Kansas City Museum at Corinthian Hall since 2006.

Advocates of separation contend that Union Station is not sufficiently promoting the museum and are pursuing tax-exempt status for a museum foundation that they are hopeful can become professionally accredited and raise the money needed for Corinthian Hall, The Kansas City Star reported.

“Union Station claims some of the exhibits and the museum claims some of the exhibits and those things will be hammered out by the lawyers,” said Martha Lally, chairwoman of the Kansas City Museum Advisory Board and a proponent of separating the two Kansas City institutions.

According to a 2007 contract, most everything collected by the Kansas City Museum Association up to October 1970 belongs to the city. Everything obtained since then belongs to Union Station.

There are 70,000 to 80,000 groups of objects in the collections, said Denise Morrison, director of collections for the museum. She said the holdings are organized and cataloged as a whole.

Union Station CEO George Guastello said it is willing to discuss a city proposal to assume daily operations and programming at Corinthian Hall, home to the museum. But he has said ownership of the collections is not negotiable.

“At this time, there is no discussion of separating the collection, and Union Station intends to continue to be the curator of all the artifacts owned by the city or Union Station,” Guastello said this week.

Adam Schieber, a member of the city-appointed museum advisory board and an advocate of separation, said the separation could be messy.

“In the end, there’s going to be a fight over the kid,” Schieber said.

Meanwhile, most of the collections are in storage while the museum awaits a renovation that could cost more than $20 million.

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