Center for Midwestern Studies 1

Public Engagement

We make use of the rich history available to us here in Kansas City.

Through our public programming, UMKC faculty and students help facilitate connections and conversations among scholars, students, K-12 educators, historical and cultural institutions, and the public.  Our diverse communities here in Kansas City serve as our bridges to a wider world.

Some of our programs have included:

Richard D. McKinzie Lecture Series
This annual lecture brings notable historians to the Kansas City Public Library to deliver lectures on aspects of American History with contemporary significance.  Past McKinzie speakers have included David Kennedy, Steven Hahn, David Blight, Leon Litwack, Daniel Walker Howe, Bruce Schulman, Stephanie McCurry, Stephen Aaron, and many others.

Crossroads of Conflict
Thanks to grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Landmarks of American History and Culture, the CMS has hosted the summer workshop Crossroads of Conflict: Contested Visions of Freedom and the Missouri-Kansas Border Wars five times. This workshop brings K-12 teachers from across the country to spend a week interacting with historians and exploring historic sites throughout the region in order to enhance their understanding of the clash of cultures and differing definitions of “freedom” that played out on the Missouri-Kansas border during the era of the Civil War.

The Border Wars Project
In 2011, the CMS co-organized and co-sponsored the successful Border Wars Project with the Kansas City Public Library and the University of Kansas Hall Center for the Humanities. Additional support for the project came from Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area, the Barton P. and Mary D. Cohen Charitable Trust, and UMKC. An academic workshop on the border wars produced a public conference at the Kansas City Public Library and an edited volume: Bleeding Kansas, Bleeding Missouri: The Long Civil War on the Western Border.  The book was named a “Best Read” of 2013 by the Kansas City Star and a 2014 Notable Book by the Kansas State Library. Many of the Border Wars scholars went on to work with the Kansas City Public Library on their multiple award winning Civil War on the Western Border website.

Wide Open Town Project
Modeled after the Border Wars project, the CMS and the Kansas City Public Library co-organized and co-sponsored the Wide Open Town Project in 2015 focusing on the history of Kansas City during the Pendergast Era (1920s-1930s). The project was co-organized and co-sponsored by the Center for Midwestern Studies and the Kansas City Public Library.  UMKC, the Missouri Humanities Council, and Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area provided additional funding. A roundtable workshop for academics again led to a large public conference at the KCPL, an edited collection from the University Press of Kansas (2018), and the KCPL’s Pendergast Years website.

Kansas City and the Rise of Gay Rights
This 2017 traveling exhibit and website, Making History: Kansas City and the Rise of Gay Rights, documents the history of the first national meeting of LBGT activists in Kansas City in 1967.  The exhibit was researched and created by UMKC Public History students in cooperation with GLAMA and the LaBudde Special Collections.  The project was funded by Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area.

Love in the Age of Hitler
Andrew Bergerson, K. Scott Baker, and Deborah Parker co-authored a new historical play, Love in the Age of Hitler: A Courtship in Letters, 1938-1940, based on the courtship letters of two ordinary Germans who fell in love during the era of the Third Reich.  These letters are transcribed on the Trug und Schein website. Scholars provided the audience with a framework for how to think critically about the play through a series of 6 YouTube lectures. The play was staged twice at UMKC in May-June 2017 and was followed by a one-day public workshop in which the audience, actors, and scholars had the opportunity to discuss the play and the letters in breakout sessions. The project was support by a number of community partners including the Missouri Humanities Council and the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education.

Interpreting Slavery Workshop for Museum Educators
 This day-long 2015 workshop, Interpreting Slavery Workshop for Museum Educators, provided tools to museum and historic site educators to help improve the interpretation of the history of slavery at their sites.  The program was co-organized and  co-sponsored by the Center for Midwestern Studies, Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area, and the Wornall-Majors House Museums. Additional funding was provided by the Kansas Humanities Council and the Missouri Humanities Council.

Our Department is also the proud host for the Center for Midwestern Studies: an intellectual hub for cultural organizations, K-12 educators, students, and members of the public interested in the history and culture of our region. Its mission is to encourage and disseminate innovative research, teaching, and public programming about the American Midwest