A plan for moving and expanding the Lee’s Summit Historical Society Museum was unveiled to the Lee’s Summit City Council and received an OK for city staff to continue working on the project.
Renovation of a 1939 WPA Post Office Historical Center at 220 SW Main St. was included in a bond issue votes approved in April with the aim of placing the museum in that building.
Art Davis, a volunteer working on the conceptual plan, said the historical society is confident it can meet projected operating expenses,but it needs “favorable terms” on the lease.
“So we can put our resources toward the programming and curriculum development and education of the community, as opposed to putting it into facility and capital,” Davis told the city council May 16.
The museum would triple from 800 square feet to about 2,500 square feet. Historic murals would be on display and the postmaster’s office restored. The number of artifacts on display would expand and interactive exhibits are in the works. It would include space for traveling exhibits.
The museum now is in a corner of the Lee’s Summit train depot, sharing it with the Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce and Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council.
Davis, a former Lee’s Summit city administrator, prepared the plan with historical society President Kathy Smith, architect John Wisniewski and Bud Hertzog.
He said they are confident it can build membership, get grants, corporate sponsorships to meet operating expenses of about $38,000 a year, which would include utilities, a part-time executive director and developing exhibits.
Davis said at minimum a part-time director is needed for the long term success, to help with grant writing, coordinating an expanded volunteer base and fund-raising .
The historical society plans to raise awareness of the museum during the 2015 celebration of the 150th anniversary of Lee’s Summit’s founding.
The museum wants to grow its current $35,000 endowment to $60,000 in 2015.
Under the proposal the building also would include dressing rooms, rest rooms and storage on the lower level to support the outdoor festival space to be built on a vacant lot to the buildings rear. That is a separate project also funded by the bond issue.
Also the historical society is working on an partnership to provide a museum coffee shop that could serve patrons and passengers at the Amtrak station across the street.
It could add income for the museum would also serve the city as an informal visitors bureau for those travelers, Smith said.
Council members asked a few questions and said its important that the society grow its endowment and sponsorships, then agreed city staff should work with the historical society on a service agreement for the building.
Councilmember Derek Holland offered a warning and encouragement.
“We don’t want to come up in three years having to put $50,000 into this,” Holland said. “You’re off to a good start, I think it’s very doable.”