Nelson-Atkins Building

A Treasured History

The story of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is rich with characters, collectors and curators.

It began in the late 1800s and early 1900s, when the edge of Kansas City was still north of the current Museum. It began because a Kansas City newspaperman developed a hunger for refinement at about the same time that a widowed schoolteacher fell in love with the art museums of Europe.

The large financial estates they left were intended to create two separate art museums, but trustees later combined their assets to fund what is today a world-renowned art museum, the Nelson-Atkins. It would take brilliant architects, art historians, curators and community leaders to turn the dreams of William Rockhill Nelson and Mary Atkins into reality.

Much of the content in this section, A Treasured Past, comes from the book High Ideals and Aspirations: The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art 1933-1993, by Michael Churchman and Scott Erbes.

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