By Lindsey Arnold Seevers
In 2022, the Johnson County Museum’s special exhibit “REDLINED: Cities, Suburbs and Segregation” took visitors on a deep dive into the history of redlining and how it both shaped and was shaped by Johnson County and the region. Visitors learned the history of systematic disinvestment of some neighborhoods and populations in favor of others, most often on the basis of race, and how the legacies of redlining policy continue to impact Kansas City and communities around the nation today.
The community response to the REDLINED exhibit was astounding, with tens of thousands of visitors pouring over the exhibit’s 22,000 words, and somehow still asking for more. Museum staff led over 100 private tours – a record for the museum – for municipal, county, national, and tribal leaders; religious groups and nonprofits; civic leadership programs and fellow museum professionals; realtors, banks, credit unions, and developers; all of whom spent an hour or more diving deeply into the hard history shared in the exhibit.
The Johnson County Museum’s work on and around the exhibit resulted in several national awards, and has been held up as a model for museums nationwide. The feedback from the public was overwhelmingly positive, with many visitors requesting that the exhibit become a permanent fixture. The museum staff turned the exhibit into a full-color book, available at the Museum Store and local libraries, but still the requests for more continued. In response to the public demand, the Johnson County Museum plans to transform the content of the in-person special exhibit into a high-quality digital experience that continues the deep-dive into this hard history.
“As public servants, it is our job to respond to our community,” said Museum Director Mary McMurray. “And as historians, it is our duty to seize the opportunity to share our history – the good, the bad, the hard – in compelling ways that inspire, empower, and embolden citizens today to learn from the past and make a better future.”
By transforming the REDLINED exhibit into a digital format, the Johnson County Museum is breaking down physical barriers to access, and expanding the reach of the content beyond the Kansas City area. A digital exhibit allows individuals from across the globe to engage with stories, images, artifacts, and educational resources wherever they are. This digital transformation ensures that the profound lessons of the REDLINED exhibit can reach a broader audience, fostering education, empathy, and understanding.
The transition from a physical exhibit to a digital platform requires significant resources, including investment in technology, content creation, and user experience design. To secure the success of this endeavor, the Johnson County Museum has launched a fundraising campaign, with the goal of raising $125,000. The campaign is currently over halfway to the goal thanks to the support of sponsors like the Kansas City Regional Association of Realtors; Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation; The Parks & Recreation Foundation of Johnson County; Resurrection, A United Methodist Church; Black & Veatch; Mazuma Credit Union; and individual donors.
Beyond preserving history, the digital transformation of the REDLINED exhibit offers unique opportunities for community engagement and collaboration. The digital exhibit will provide schools, universities, community organizations, and all interested parties with valuable resources for research, education, and conversation. By embracing technology, the museum is transcending physical barriers, expanding access, and offering innovative ways to engage with this critical chapter of American history. Learn more at JCPRD.com/REDLINED.
Lindsey Arnold Seevers is the curator of engagement with the Johnson County Museum, a department of the Johnson County Park and Recreation District.