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Nov 30

No other exhibit has drawn as much discussion and attention in the museum’s 55-year history

Posted on November 30, 2022 at 3:53 PM by Becky Burnside

By David Markham

After drawing unprecedented public response, garnering accolades, and being captured in the form of a new book, the Johnson County Museum’s temporary exhibit about redlining will be closing in early January.

“REDLINED: Cities, Suburbs, and Segregation” opened Jan. 29 and will run through Jan. 7, so there’s limited time left to visit or revisit the exhibit. The exhibit is included with regular museum admission. Regular museum hours are 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, and $4 for children.

“Almost immediately we knew we had something special,” said Museum Director Dr. Mary McMurray. “Visitors flocked to the exhibit. Many spent hours diligently reading every line of text. Others came for a short visit and left sharing that they’d be back to learn more. A feedback wall at the end of the exhibit has been home to more than 460 Post-It notes with visitors’ reflections and commentary on the exhibit. The comments expressed a variety of reflections, commitments to action, and even some challenges to the content that invited us, as a staff, to reflect.”

This nearly year-long temporary exhibit, which is tied into to the museum’s 55th anniversary, chronicles more than 175 years of history related to redlining, its foundations, and its continuing legacies. Redlining - the system of disinvestment that went from a private prejudicial practice in the early 20th century to a federal policy during the Great Depression - shaped and continues to impact daily interactions, neighborhoods, cities, and the nation.

“Local organizations allocated resources so that more people could see the exhibit for free,” McMurray said. “One local social justice group, made up of members from a historically Black church in Kansas City, Mo., and a suburban church in Johnson County, scheduled over 15 tours of the exhibit for their members. Participants would then go to lunch at a nearby Black-owned restaurant to continue the discussion. Local businesses and leadership groups requested professional development sessions centered around REDLINED. Overall, this exhibit brought in a much more diverse audience to the museum, which we will continue to engage going forward.”

Media coverage has praised REDLINED and has encouraged audiences to visit the exhibit. In all, REDLINED has been featured in more than 25 news features, including an editorial in which “The Kansas City Star” told its readers, “…the exhibit is one not to miss. Do yourself a favor and go. Take family and friends, too.”

During its run, there have been more than 100 tours of the exhibit with civic organizations, churches, banks, nonprofits, real estate agencies, and more. Staff delivered over 60 presentations and field trips to schools, clubs, and social justice groups, were attended by almost 1,000 people across the bi-state area. 

Over the course of the temporary exhibit, a slate of related programs were presented, and one more is scheduled for Jan. 4. The upcoming program for all ages is a free hour-long virtual presentation called Redlining Is Only Part of the Story (25011), which will take place beginning at 6 p.m. Annie Evans with the University of Richmond's digital website, "Mapping Inequality," will share interactive scans of redlining maps for cities around the nation interactive scans of redlining maps for cities around the nation, including the 1939 map for the Kansas City Metro Area. Attendees will also learn about the origins of the maps, how to access and interpret them, and how these maps continue to impact our communities today. Register by 4 p.m. on Jan. 4 to receive the Zoom link for this program.

In early November, the museum received the 2022 Special Achievement Award from the Greater Kansas City Attractions Association for the exhibit. The award honors an individual or organization who coordinated a unique event, program, or campaign to go above and beyond in furthering the goals, objectives, and spirit of the tourism and hospitality industry.

Also in November, a book version of the exhibit, also titled “REDLINED: Cities, Suburbs, and Segregation,” was released.  Spanning 73 pages, the book traces the history of redlining from its foundations in the period between the end of the Civil War and the Great Depression to its legacies, which still impact society today. With stunning graphic design and well-researched hard history, the book promises to captivate readers - just as the exhibit has. The book is available for $14.95 plus tax from The Museum Store.

While the exhibit has undoubtedly impacted the community, it has also had an affect on the museum as well.  Even though the history of redlining is a story the museum has told for years in its main exhibit, its tours, and through its social media and blogs, conversations are under way to incorporate select exhibit content into the museum’s signature exhibit, “Becoming Johnson County.”  The exhibit has also spurred museum staff to reflect on how the topic of redlining is represented and interpreted in the permanent collections. 

“Recognizing and incorporating REDLINED content will help us tell the larger story of Johnson County and its dynamic growth in the post-World War II era,” McMurray said.  

Museum staff is also in early conversations to transform the exhibit into a high-quality digital exhibit and/or traveling exhibition so that more people can learn this important history.

“When this journey into REDLINED began in 2020, we as the museum staff knew we were taking a brave step into challenging territory as we explored a narrative that runs counter to the typical Johnson County story,” McMurray said. “But because of that bravery, we’ve seen firsthand the transformative power of creating a space to have difficult conversations, together. Building on our trust and connection with the community, the support of experts and local organizations, and the creativity of our exhibit team, REDLINED has become a place for exploration of our shared community identity - the good and the bad - and that is a legacy that will be with us for a long time.”

To learn more about the exhibit and plan a visit, go to