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A museum's exhibits and collection are a core part of its identity. As part of our mission and vision, the American Jazz Museum aims to exhibit a collection of artifacts that helps tell the story of jazz's impact in Kansas City, the nation, and the world. See below for what our exhibits and collections may offer you.
Listening stations, touch screen interactives, custom mixing boards, and the John H. Baker Film Collection complement a year-round display of artifacts, graphics, and commissioned artwork. Some highlights include Charlie Parker’s Grafton saxophone, a sequined gown worn by Ella Fitzgerald, and two rotating gallery spaces: the Ida McBeth Changing Gallery & the Ron Chaney Gallery.
The Changing Gallery
Since the museum's inception in 1997, The Changing Gallery near the front of the museum's entrance displays work centered around jazz, baseball, and the history of the 18th & Vine District. Local gallery partnerships, museum anniversaries, & Smithsonian traveling exhibits are a handful of the high quality educational experiences offered to visitors. Great for both locals and out of town patrons.
Not able to come and visit us? Getting nostalgic from a past visit? The American Jazz Museum is fortunate to be a partner with Google Arts & Culture, an online platform featuring over 2,000 leads museums and their archives to showcase their spaces worldwide. Take a look through our permanent exhibit online, or see what other exhibits we've digitized!
Watch & Listen
At the American Jazz Museum, we're lucky to have staff and partners who are able to give professional insight on exhibits and objects featured throughout our history. Check out our YouTube channel for a list of exhibit-related videos, and subscribe for future content such as virtual concerts, free streams of public programs, song contests, and more!
The American Jazz Museum serves as a repository for priceless, rare, and one-of-a-kind artifacts, documents and photographs, film and sound recordings, published books, sheet music, and visual art pieces that inform our understanding of jazz as a historical and living art form.
The museum provides access to artifacts, photographs, and documents that showcase the life and work of America’s jazz musicians and the impact of jazz on American society and culture in general and in Kansas City in particular. Among the artifacts are musical instruments of all kinds, including Charlie Parker’s Grafton saxophone, Claude ‘Fiddler’ Williams’ violin, and Ernie Williams’ bass drum. The collection also contains many personal effects of jazz musicians, including performance contracts, handwritten correspondence from John Coltrane and Pearl Thuston-Brown, performance outfits worn by Ella Fitzgerald, and Charlie Parker’s gold pocket watch and cuff links. The holdings also contain a vast collection of photographs, posters, and jazz related ephemera. Also among the artifacts are evidence of technological developments in sound recording, from the Edison graphophone to mid-century and modern radios and turntables.
The American Jazz Museum is also home to the John H. Baker Film Collection. The collection is comprised of over 2000 rolls of film, as well as photographs and other materials, and provides an astounding visual record of jazz performances.
The Museum maintains an ever expanding music library of sound recordings on phonograph cylinders, vinyl records, reel-to-reel tapes, cassettes, and compact discs capturing the evolution of the art form from the dawn of recorded sound to today’s jazz masters and up-and-coming stars. The music library also contains a wide array of sheet music covering jazz compositions and other genres as well as books and other unique publications that provide insight into the nation’s jazz history and the social and cultural life of Kansas City’s jazz scene.
The American Jazz Museum’s art collection includes the work of nationally renowned visual artists working in a variety of media, including painting, photography, and sculpture, with particular focus on pieces that celebrate jazz, jazz culture, and the African American experience. Among the Museum’s pieces are works of muralists Selina ONeal and José Faus, photographer Robert Hale, and print artist Curlee Raven Holten.
The Collections Department is excited to provide access to collections to jazz scholars and researchers. To schedule a research appointment or inquire about accessing an artifact digitally, please reach out directly to the Department of Collections.
We welcome the opportunity to consider offers of collection donations. Due to the volume of offers we receive on a weekly basis, the museum does not accept original materials without prior communication, review and approval from a representative in the Department of Collections.