‘Nearest by Air to Everywhere’: A Tour of Kansas City’s Aviation History

Tuesday, June 22, 2021 to Sunday, December 31, 2023

Kansas City’s aviation history dates to the mid-19th century and a scene right out of Oz – the first ascension of a manned hot air balloon in the city, witnessed by thousands of people spilled onto rooftops and other high vantage points. It extends from biplanes to bombers, from dusty airfields to modern airports, from flying schools to the successful pursuit of a hometown airline, TWA. 

As the latest chapter unfolds – and construction of a new $1.5 billion, single-terminal iteration of Kansas City International Airport moves toward completion in March 2023 – this new exhibit celebrates that rich heritage, charting the arc of air travel in the city and surrounding area. Kansas City had previously been a hub of transportation by water, by overland trail (the Santa Fe) and by rail. By air, too, it became (and billed itself) “Nearest by Air to Everywhere.” 

The exhibit draws heavily from vintage photos and other images in the Library’s Missouri Valley Special Collections, and from the Kansas City Museum, the Jackson County and Overland Park historical societies and other cultural partners.