History

Wonderscope Children’s Museum of Kansas City is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2019. Its history is both fascinating and unique. Like each chapter of a book contributes to the plot of its story, each year has contributed to the plot of Wonderscope’s story.

In 1988, the Johnson County (Kan.) Commissioners established a task force to study programs and activities available for children and their families in the local community. The study concluded that there was a shortage of hands-on, interactive programs of interest to entire families.

As a response to that unmet community need, Wonderscope Children’s Museum was founded in 1989 by Mary Porter. The museum was housed in the Shawnee School for the Blind until 1993 when Vic Regnier, owner of Vic Regnier Builders, purchased the former Flint Elementary School at 5700 King St. where the museum is currently located.

Porter also was involved with the Children’s Museum of Kansas City. Opened in 1990 in the Indian Springs Shopping Center, it similarly offered exhibits and programming for young children.

In 2003, Beyond the Book was created to serve children and families with a unique hands-on approach to teaching children about arts and sciences through literature. Beyond the Book also was committed to creating a leading-edge children’s museum experience in the Kansas City area.

In spring of 2006, the respective boards of Wonderscope Inc. and Beyond the Book agreed that it would be in the best interests of both organizations and the community to explore the potential for a collaborative approach to achieving the common vision for a large-scale children’s museum. In May 2007, Beyond the Book merged into Wonderscope, creating one entity, with a combined board, leadership and integrated programming.

Eventually, the merged organization began conversations with Children’s Museum of Kansas City, and in May 2008, Children’s Museum of Kansas City merged into Wonderscope Children’s Museum to become Wonderscope Children’s Museum of Kansas City, operating out of Wonderscope’s site in Shawnee, Kan.

This merger effectively brought all of the children’s museum interests in the metropolitan area together to achieve the vision of developing a world-class children’s museum for Kansas City.

In February, 2017, Wonderscope launched a capital campaign to raise $15 million for a brand new building at Red Bridge Shopping Center.