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Archive for Monday, January 3, 2011

Kansas City’s WWI museum seeks to improve national profile

January 3, 2011

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— The National World War I Museum in Kansas City is looking to enhance its profile so it can raise more money as the centennial of the fighting approaches.

Congressman Emanuel Cleaver and others with prestige have been recruited for the board of trustees, while actor Kevin Costner is among those who have agreed to be part of a separate, honorary board.

The museum wants the national World War I centennial commemoration to be anchored in Kansas City.

“An important goal of the museum is to broaden our base of support throughout the nation,” board chairman James Bernard Jr. said.

He said having new board members like Cleaver, Sprint Foundation President Ralph D. Reid and New York artist Maria Cooper Janis, who is the daughter of the late actor Gary Cooper, “will help tremendously in those efforts.”

The Kansas City Star reported that the private, nonprofit association that operates the Liberty Memorial, where the museum is located, also has set ambitious fundraising targets.

The goal is to raise $34.5 million by 2014, the centennial of when the Great War began. The association wants the fundraising total to have grown to $62.75 million by 2018, the centennial of the war ending. The plan is to put two-thirds of the money raised into an endowment.

The association also wants to boost attendance with new attractions and more marketing. Since the museum opened to acclaim in 2006, attendance has fallen off as was expected.

“We’re not new anymore,” said Brian Alexander, president and chief executive of the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial.

The good news is that revenue from attendance has grown from about $1 million in 2009 to $1.4 million this year because of changes in the ticket fee structure.

The attendance-boosting efforts will include a series of temporary “spotlight” exhibits focusing on items in the World War I collection that are rarely, if ever, displayed. The memorial also is preparing for a first-ever collaboration with the Kansas City Actors Theatre for a stage production in February of the play “Oh What a Lovely War.”

“We need to be aggressive,” Alexander said of the efforts.

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