The American Museum of Natural History is one of the largest and most celebrated museums in the world. So says Wikipedia.
We should all feel pretty proud that the 142-year-old museum’s first major foray outside its home in New York is to Overland Park.
We have the demographics and quality of life the museum was looking for.
In addition — and this is no small matter — they were intensely wooed by Fred Merrill, developer of Prairiefire at Lionsgate, which is a $426 million mixed-use shopping, residential, office and cultural development now under way on 61 acres on 135th Street between Nall and Lamar avenues.
This will be “a museum unlike any other in the Midwest,” according to the developer.
The American Museum of Natural History will bring two traveling exhibits each year for six months at a time to the Museum of Prairiefire.
It is estimated that there will be 400,000 visitors to each exhibit, or a total of 800,000 visitors annually. However, it is targeted to grow to a million visitors each year, which would make it one of the top tourist attractions in the state of Kansas, just behind Cabela’s, the outdoor goods store in Wyandotte County.
You will find at the museum, among other things, dinosaurs, legless lizards and a human brain.
The description gets the heart pumping. “Imagine science coming alive in the most fascinating ways, merging technology, interactive experience, visual, audio and social learning.”
The Museum of Prairiefire will include astrophysics, earth science, biodiversity and human biology — with displayed objects from the American Museum of Natural History collections.
Most of the museum will be capitalized by $22 million in STAR bonds.(The entire development was made possible with the help of STAR bonds, the first time such bonds have been used in Johnson County, plus city tax incentives.)
This is a clearly good use of incentives. The entire development will be a crown jewel that could never have been built without tax incentives.
There still is, however, $6.5 million that needs to be raised privately for the museum itself, and that is no small challenge.
The bonds basically will build the shell of the museum. The private donations will go toward interior spaces, Discovery Room, classrooms, exhibition costs and scholarships.
Already, $1.5 million has been raised. But $5 million remains to be raised.
There are 11 members of the campaign cabinet who are out knocking on doors.
Two Johnson Countian of the Year awardees, Ben Craig and Mary Birch, are on this campaign cabinet. The two have been leaders in some of the most important projects ever built in Johnson County They do not join major efforts readily, unless they are true believers.
“This museum will be world-class,” said Birch. “It will fit perfectly into the kind of quality of life that has been created in Johnson County.”
If you believe Johnson County and all of metropolitan Kansas City needs a world-class museum like the Museum of Prairiefire, this is the time to step forward. Don’t be bashful. They would name the entire museum after you for only $4 million.
Special to The Star