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Aug 29

New temporary exhibit examines the long history of Hispanic heritage in Kansas City region

Posted on August 29, 2019 at 5:04 PM by Becky Burnside

From westward trails, to the railroads, to more recent immigrants, the long history of Hispanic heritage in Johnson County and the region is the subject of a new temporary exhibit opening Sept. 3 at the Johnson County Museum.

Latinos in the Heartland is the name of this new exhibit, which ties into both Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15), and the launch of the museum’s new diversity initiative, which connects back to the museum’s collection plan. 

“Immigration has been an important life event for many in the community, but area connections to Latin America - especially to Mexico - go back generations,” said Museum Director Mindi Love. “We want to collect more stories, photos, and objects relating to the stories of non-white Johnson Countians. We want our exhibits and collections to reflect the diversity of the Johnson County community, and Hispanic and Latino populations are just some of the communities with which we hope to form a lasting relationship.”  

Love noted that between 1980 and 2010, Johnson County’s non-white population (comprised of African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, and “other”) grew from barely 3 percent to 14 percent. She added that the upcoming 2020 census is expected to show a continuation and acceleration of that trend.

“The Latino community is the fastest growing population in Johnson County, and it’s important to the community’s history museum to provide more opportunities for engagement with members of the community in all areas of what we do: exhibits, programming, collections, and board leadership roles,” she said.  

This Latinos in the Heartland exhibit will include an interactive digital component in English and Spanish displayed on a screen, as well as objects in cases. The exhibit will include artifacts from the museum’s collection, plus others loaned from other area institutions and individuals in the community. This exhibit will run through Nov. 2.

Celebrating the artistic and cultural contributions Latino and Hispanic Americans have made in our community is another goal of this exhibit. Towards this end, a program called An Evening of Latino Art, Music, & Poetry is planned at the museum on Sept. 26. This free drop-in program, made possible through a Humanities Kansas Grant, begins at 5:30 p.m. and will feature area poet, artist, and teacher, José Faus. He will perform “They Changed My Name (Cambiaron Mi Nombre),” a recounting of his immigration story. The evening will also include a poetry reading by Xánath Caraza, a professor at UMKC Latino Studies program; a presentation by Kansas City Art Institute professor and artist Miguel Rivera; and a traditional Mexican dance and prayer by Calpulli Iskali. The event will also include refreshments.    

Another program which ties into the temporary exhibit is a lunch and learn session called Nuestra Herencia Americana, Hispanic-American Roots in Northeast Kansas on Oct. 8 . During this program, Kansas City Catalytic Urban Revitalization Project Manager and Chair of the Kansas City Area Transit Authority Daniel Serda, will give his presentation about the history of Hispanic culture in the Kansas City region.

Because the Latinos in the Heartland exhibit will be located in the Creative Commons area of the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center, 8788 Metcalf Ave., Overland Park, and not inside the Johnson County Museum itself, admission to this exhibit is free and available during building hours of 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information about the museum or the Latinos in the Heartland exhibit, visit

Just a reminder that another temporary exhibit called Expanding Oz, is also going on at the museum through Nov. 2. This exhibit traces the growth of “The Wizard of Oz” phenomenon, explores its global appeal, and illustrates its influence on popular culture. This exhibit ties into the 100th anniversary of Author L. Frank Baum’s death, the 80th anniversary of the 1939 MGM movie, and the Theatre in the Park’s Aug. 2-10 production of the play as part of its 50th outdoor season. Admission to this exhibit is included with regular museum admission rates of $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, and $3 for children. The museum is open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and is not open on Sunday.