Facebook Social Icon Instagram Icon Twitter Social Icon You Tube Social Icon

Johnson County Museum

Phone: 913-715-2550

8788 Metcalf Ave., Overland Park, KS 66212

You are here

About the Museum

The Johnson County Museum began as an all-volunteer organization in 1967 with the mission of collecting, preserving and sharing the history of Johnson County with its community. Originally located in Shawnee in the 1,500 square foot 1927 Greenwood School, the museum expanded at the site to a 20,000 sq. ft. facility.

The museum will celebrate its 50th year in its new home at the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center in 2017, and for the first time, charge an admission fee.  The museum has been recognized over 20 times for excellence in exhibitions, programming and publication by national, regional and state organizations. The museum offers exhibitions, school, youth and Scout programming, family and adult programs, film and lecture series, as well as tours of the museum’s exhibitions and permanent collections. The Johnson County Museum also operates the Lanesfield School Site in Edgerton, KS. 

The museum came under the management of Johnson County Park and Recreation District in 2016. The Museum Advisory Council, appointed by the Johnson County Commission, oversees the museum’s collection program and the Johnson County Museum Foundation, a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization raises private funds to support the museum initiatives. A staff of six full-time and four part-time employees, with the help of over 50 community volunteers, oversees day-to-day museum operations.


Metal Detecting at Johnson County Museum Properties
Metal detecting is not permissible on Johnson County Museum properties. Metal detectors should not be used on any historic archaeological sites or at any human burial locations as these areas are protected by state and federal laws. Questions may be directed to the Museum Director at 913-715-2550. Thank you for your cooperation.

Johnson County History

All of the 476 square miles that are now Johnson County were once part of the Shawnee Indian reservation. The territory was opened to white settlement with the passing of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. At that time the area was crisscrossed by a number of major westward migration routes including the Ft. Leavenworth Military, the Santa Fe and Oregon-California trails.

Johnson County was created on August 25, 1855 by the Kansas Territorial Legislature. One of the first 33 counties in the state, it was named for the Reverend Thomas Johnson, founder of the Shawnee Methodist Mission.

By the time Johnson County was organized, a number of communities already were established including the towns of Olathe, Spring Hill, Gardner, De Soto, and Gum Springs (present-day Shawnee).

By 1870, when the railroad came to the area, there were 13,000 people residing in the county. The population remained relatively stable and the economy agriculturally based until the 1910s when early suburban developments began popping up in northeast Johnson County. With its close proximity to the newly industrialized Kansas City, Missouri, innovative community developers – such as William B. Strang and J.C. Nichols – saw new potential. More and more families were lured from established Kansas City neighborhoods into these new suburban developments in formerly rural areas of Johnson County.

Transportation played a key role in the county’s suburban development. Two interurban rail lines helped to accelerate the growth. In 1904, W.B. Strang began construction of an electric railroad. It passed through his newly platted community of Overland Park, the established town of Lenexa, and ended at the county seat of Olathe. A second interurban railroad, the Hocker Grove Line, was constructed south and west through Merriam and Shawnee. Both the Hocker Grove and Strang companies served as real estate development ventures, their owners platting new subdivisions along their lines.

Between 1910 and 1940, the population of the county grew from 18,288 to 33,327. Most of this growth was confined to the extreme northeast corner and the corridors created by road systems and the electric railroads. The rural, agricultural communities in the western and southern parts of the county remained largely as they had throughout the 19th century.

Significant change began to occur with the onset of World War II. Two major facilities were constructed in the 1940s to serve the war effort and Johnson County’s landscape was forever changed. The Olathe Naval Air Station, charged with training pilots and serving as a supply center, opened in 1942 on 640-acres south of Olathe. The Sunflower Ordnance Works opened the same year on roughly 10,000 acres south of De Soto. The mammoth plant drew workers from a 100-radius in addition to laborers from 18 states. At its height in 1945, over 12,000 employees worked 24 hours a day making rocket propellant.

In the decades following World War II, the county’s population exploded. By 1950, the number of county residents increased to 63,000. The decade of the 1960s saw the county’s population double again to 120,000. More houses were built between 1946 and 1951 than had been completed during the previous 120 years. The most significant growth continued to be in communities located in the northeast section of the county – Prairie Village, Overland Park, Shawnee, Merriam, Roeland Park, Mission, and Leawood.

Along with the boom in residents came commercial and industrial growth--shopping centers, gas stations, warehouses, and office parks all followed the population away from the core city to less expensive, more accessible areas along new interstate highway routes. By 1965, 135 companies with nearly 4,000 employees were conducting business in the county and there were 102 manufacturing companies. The county’s first indoor shopping center, Metcalf South, broke ground in 1967 at 95th & Metcalf. By the mid-1970s, less than one third of suburban residents drove to a central city, or “downtown” with any regularity.

Johnson County’s status as the metropolitan leader in office development began with the developments along what was then 111th Street in southern Overland Park. College Boulevard’s namesake, Johnson County Community College, was the first to move to the corridor when its new campus opened in 1972. At the time, nearly 100 full-time faculty members were teaching 3,600 students, providing new opportunities for post-secondary education. In 1973, Black and Veatch moved its corporate headquarters to 115th and Lamar and Corporate Woods office park followed in 1975. The result has been a significant shift in employment patterns within the Kansas City metropolitan area. From 1970 to 1984 the number of people employed by businesses within the county increased by more than 200%. Once a bedroom community to Kansas City, Missouri, Johnson County now employs more than half its working residents and more workers travel into Johnson County than leave it each day for employment.

By 2005 the county’s population reached 510,000, and projections indicate it will exceed 630,000 by 2020. Recent growth has seen nearly 10,000 new residents choosing to live in the county each year. Future growth and development patterns are expected to the south, southwest and west -- including the future re-development of the Sunflower Ordnance Works, south of De Soto, which if successful will result in the largest planned community in the Kansas City metropolitan area.

Museum Boards

The Museum Advisory Council provides oversight of the Johnson County Museum's operations and budget. Council members are appointed by the Johnson County Commission. The Council meets six times per year  at the Johnson County Museum, 6305 Lackman Road, Shawnee, from 8:00 - 9:30 a.m., unless otherwise posted. Special meetings may be called at the discretion of the Council Chair. All meetings will be posted on the Museum's calendar as well as on the Johnson County Board of Commissioners master calendar.

  • Nancy Wallerstein, Chair  (2nd District appointment)
  • Lori Plank Allen, Vice Chair (3rd District appointment)
  • Matt Beaven (4th District appointment)
  • Julie Hickman (5th District appointment)
  • Jean Hughes (Chairman appointment)
  • Therese Iverson (6th District appointment)
  • Steve Petrehn (1st District appointment)

Johnson County Museum Foundation

The Johnson County Museum Foundation is a separtate not-for-profit membership organization committed to supporting the mission of the Museum through support of exhibits, programs, publications, and special events. The organization is governed by a Board of Trustees,who serve three year terms and may serve two consecutive terms.

Board of Trustees

  • Larry Meeker -- President
  • Mary Kay Ingenthron, MK Communications -- Vice President
  • Jane Wilson, Olathe School District  -- Secretary
  • Lauren Crawford, Great Wolf Lodge  -- Treasurer
  • Mindi Love, Johnson County Museum -- Assistant Treasurer
  • Jama Akers
  • Jerry Baird
  • Julie Hickman, Diversity Compliance and Testing Group  -- Museum Advisory Council representative
  • John Shreve, Populous
  • Nancy Stankiewicz
  • Mary Tearney
  • Nancy Wallerstein -- Museum Adviosry Council representative
Persons who may need assistance, the use of a sign language or oral interpreter, or who require special accommodations, should contact (913) 715-2575, at least two (2) business days prior to the meeting.

Museum Mission, Vision and Values

Our Mission

Engage children and adults in exploring our nationally recognized suburban story through collections, exhibitions, and programs in an iconic venue.

Our Vision

To be nationally recognized for presenting the past and exploring the future of one of America's leading suburban counties.

Our Core Values

  • We believe in a Visitor First philosophy, meaning the visitor is not an interruption of our work, but the reason for our work.
  • We value honesty, integrity, ethics, and the highest professional standards in everything we do.
  • We are committed as stewards of the collection to responsibly develop, maintain, preserve, and interpret permanent collections held in public trust.
  • We strive for quality and excellence in scholarship and accuracy in interpretation by presenting balanced views.
  • We are dedicated and responsive to the diverse residents of our region. We strive to provide accessible and inclusive programs and exhibitions to foster community pride and a greater understanding of Johnson County's role in the American suburban phenomena.
  • We are guided by our mission and vision, while being an essential part of Johnson County, Kansas government's vision and strategic plan.
  • We are fiscally responsible.

Museum Staff

Museum Director - Mindi Love

Executive Assistant to the Director - Audrea Griggs

Curator of Collections - Anne Jones

Curator of Education - Michele Brewer

Curator of Interpretation - Andrew R. Gustafson

Collections Manager - Josh Jordan

Visitor Services Coordinator - Justin Border

Assistant to the Curator of Education -- Sarah Wacker

Education Assistants -  Jessica Doyle, Simone Griggs and Shannon Swayne



Follow the Museum

Museum Facebook Museum Twitter Museum Instagram

Receive Updates!
Line drawing of JCAHC spire Register for e-Newsletter