Exhibits at the National Archives at Kansas City
Welcome Center and Theater
Curious about what the National Archives is and what it does? Learn about the National Archives and its role in preserving America’s heritage in the short film Democracy Starts Here. Make souvenir rubbings of famous signatures from the archives. Use the interactive kiosk to learn about the National Archives across America, and get information on upcoming special events, lectures, genealogy classes, book-signings, and programs for children.
May 7, 2013 – January 4, 2014
The National Archives at Kansas City will open a new exhibit titled, Fred Harvey: The Man, the Brand, and the American West on Tuesday, May 7, 2013. The exhibit traces the development of Fred Harvey’s food service partnership with the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad—an endeavor that branded Fred Harvey eating houses and hotels as a company with uncompromising standards, excellent food, and impeccable service by the Harvey Girls.
Train travel as we know it today was very different in the nineteenth century. At stops along the way, weary travelers stepped off the train to the sight of rough and tumble shanty towns set up by railroad men and miners. The prospect of a fresh meal or clean bed was almost non-existent. In 1876 Fred Harvey formed a partnership with the Santa Fe Railroad and set out to create a high quality hospitality experience for train travelers.
Fred Harvey was a visionary business man who changed the nature of railroad meals. His “Harvey Houses” were a string of eating establishments along the Santa Fe Railroad. The first restaurant, opened in Topeka, Kansas, in 1876, was considered a progressive new venture. As the company expanded into the hotel and tourism business, they began opening lunch rooms, dining rooms, and hotels every hundred miles along the railroad line, even expanding into resort facilities at the Grand Canyon. Kansas City’s Union Station became one of their busiest locations, featuring a lunch room, dining room (Westport Room), retail shops, and the company’s corporate headquarters.
In the Southwest, Fred Harvey and the Santa Fe Railroad implemented a marketing strategy that significantly altered the face of vacationing in America, successfully promoting the Southwest as a tourism destination. They enticed middle-class Americans into exploring the Native cultures of the Southwest, introducing travelers to Native American people, their arts, and rituals. Together, the Santa Fe Railroad and Fred Harvey became powerful agents of hospitality and tourism in the American West, defining the Southwest tourist experience and changing the way Americans ate and spent their leisure time.
By the 1930s, Fred Harvey’s hospitality empire spanned from Ohio to California. Dotted with everything from eating houses and grand resort hotels to curio shops and specialty tourist activities, Fred Harvey created a standard of excellence in hospitality that the traveling public grew to appreciate and expect. So much that Fred Harvey inspired poems and books about his famous hospitality, and even a Hollywood movie featuring the Harvey Girls.
Visitors to the exhibit will see original materials from the Harvey Girls movie, as well as documents, furniture, menus, silver service, dishware, retail items, photographs, and postcards that illustrate the history of the Fred Harvey company. For a bit of fun, visitors can try their hand at becoming a Harvey Girl, or try to beat the train in our railroad game.
Fred Harvey: The Man, the Brand, and the American West will be available for viewing, Tuesday-Saturday, 8:00am-4:00pm from May 7, 2013 to January 4, 2014. To schedule a group tour call 816-268-8013 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
September 25, 2012 – October 26, 2013
With their roaring engines, belching smokestacks, splashing paddlewheels, and distinctive whistles, steamboats were an awesome power on the river. Come on deck and discover the history of steamboats in a new temporary exhibition, Between the Rivers: Steamboating in Missouri and Iowa, opening September 25.
Between the Rivers explores the steamboat industry and its impact on the river environment, culture, and economy in Missouri and Iowa from the 1850s to the early 1900s. Located between the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, the land and people of Missouri and Iowa have long been defined by these two great rivers. Together the rivers and their tributaries opened pathways to exploration, trade, settlement, industry, war, and freedom in the Midwest. But it wasn’t just the river itself that was critical to western development—the invention of the steamboat brought about a revolution in American river commerce as significant as the railroad on land. Long before railroad tracks crisscrossed through the country, the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers served as major thoroughfares of transportation for people and cargo.
The exhibit will feature steamboat architecture and design, life adrift on the rivers, natural and steamboat disasters, government regulation of the industry, navigational improvement of the rivers, and the economic struggle between river and rail.
Between the Rivers opens on September 25 and is available for viewing through April 27, 2013. To schedule a docent-led group or school tour call 816-268-8013 or email email@example.com.