#57 – Johnson County Museum
8788 Metcalf Ave, Overland Park, KS 66212
Cost: $5 – Adults, $3 – Kids.
Features: Daily tours, 1950s-style house, rotating exhibits
Tip: Take some extra time to explore the rest of the Johnson County Arts and Heritage Center.
The Johnson County Museum is a local museum that preserves the history of suburban growth in Kansas City. With a real 1950’s home, extensive artifacts and interactive exhibits, all will enjoy this magnificent museum.
The History of Johnson County
Johnson County is part of the greater Kansas City metro. The county contains major Kansas City suburbs, including Overland Park, Olathe, Shawnee, Lenexa and Leawood.
All of the 476 square miles that are now Johnson County were once part of the Shawnee Indian reservation. At that time, a number of major westward migration routes crossed through Johnson Country, including the Ft. Leavenworth Military, the Santa Fe and Oregon-California trails. With the passing of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, the Shawnee Indians were later forced to Indian Territory in Oklahoma.
The area remained largely agricultural until the onset of World War II when two major facilities were constructed to serve the war effort. After World War II, the county’s population exploded to 120,000. Along with the population boom, shopping centers, gas stations, warehouses, and office parks grew. Moving away from the core city provided less expensive, more accessible areas along new interstate highway routes.
Recent growth has seen nearly 10,000 new residents choosing to live in the county each year, and new projections indicate the JOCO population will exceed 630,000 by 2020.
About the Johnson County Museum
I was expecting to be done in an hour, easily. To my surprise, I could have stayed for much longer than my hour-long lunch break. The museum has lots of information about the growth of the county from the 1800s to today.
Some of the information I knew from a mini exhibit at the Kansas City Public Library, like the fact that Kansas City had plans to become a leading public transportation city. Unfortunately the city would never earn that claim to fame as the affordability of cars, growth of the highway system and desegregation of schools drove white citizens out of central Kansas City and into the suburbs.
I was glad to see the museum addressed the negative points in the county’s history, including the removal of the Shawnee Indians from the land in the late 1800s and the stark racial lines of suburbanization.
There are many artifacts from all the different time periods, but the best by far was the 1950’s home and car. The home is all-electric and was originally built by Kansas City Power and Light to promote the use of electricity in homes.
Other highlights included:
- White Haven Hotel Sign
- Gates and doors from former Johnson County malls
- Home goods from real Johnson County citizens
This is an incredible museum. It is so well curated, you would never guess it is only a county museum. xx, Libbie.