150 Years of the Missouri Historical Society


[MUSIC PLAYING] The Missouri Historical
Society was founded in 1866 in the aftermath
of the Civil War. And for 150 years, we’ve been
collecting and preserving the artifacts and
documents of our history, and preserving them
for future generations. We’ve had many successes as well
as challenges in our 150 years. What has set us apart and what
will lead us into the future is our deep commitment to
the stories of this region. Every time we have
faced adversity, we have transformed
ourselves by reaching deeply into the community’s history. We’ve increased public
access to our collections, we’ve broadened the
themes of our exhibitions, and we have deeply committed to
the stories of many communities in the region. What will lead us
forward into the future is that deep commitment, and
the strong public and private support that we
have for our vision. That’s what will sustain the
Missouri Historical Society. So much of our work begins here
in the Library and Research Center, where our collections
of artifacts, documents, photographs, and
maps are housed. The collection is really
the heart of the work that we do in museums. For the last 150 years, the
Missouri Historical Society has collected materials
that have been amassed into question that is
both regional and national in significance. And it includes 175,000
objects, 90,000 volumes of library materials,
5,000 maps, over a million
photographs and prints, 7,900 linear feet of
archival material, and one of the best and
largest media collections in the United States. Some of the first artifacts
collected by the Missouri Historical Society in 1866
were a set of daguerreotypes by Thomas Easterly. They show French colonial and
Spanish colonial buildings in the city being
demolished by development. The Easterly
daguerreotypes are part of the more than one million
historic images and prints that comprise the photographic
collections of the Missouri Historical Society. One of the largest
parts of our collection is actually the clothing
and textile collection, which numbers around 18,000
pieces of men’s, women’s, and children’s
clothing, accessories, and household items. Our collection is
getting more attention nationally over
the last few years as we’ve gotten more of
our collections online. And we’ve been doing
a number of loans for pieces, such as the
Katherine Dunham Collection, to other institutions, such as
the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Denver Art Museum, Crystal
Bridges, and the Fashion Institute in New York. The Missouri Historical
Society is home to many national and
internationally collections. The Katherine Dunham Collection,
the World’s Fair Collection, the American Fur Trade,
Charles Lindbergh trophies– all of these helped make
the historical society relevant on the national stage. Our collections tie us
back to St. Louis’ role in the history of our nation
and give us a unique perspective on world events. The elk skin journal is an
absolutely incredible artifact. It is one of the
few remaining field journals from this period. And William Clark
did beautiful maps and sketches and recordings
in this elk skin journal. Today, the Missouri
Historical Society is in the midst of its biggest
transformation in 150 years. Our History Museum is increasing
its focus on local history, and it’s expanding
our understanding of this community’s history
in the broad context of American history. In just the last
three years, we’ve opened four of the five
most visited exhibits in our 150-year history. In those three years, we also
saw three consecutive years of more than 400,000
in attendance, something that’s never happened
in our 150-year history. And in 2016, we
welcomed more visitors than we’ve seen since the 1920s. We’re also sharing our
collection and stories with a broader range of
visitors than ever before. We built the History
Clubhouse and continue to grow our programs,
providing even more meaningful experiences for
young children and families. Today, our guided gallery
plus classroom programs serve five times
as many students as they did 10 years ago. And we’re sharing
our collections beyond the walls of the
museum through an expanded social media and
online presence. When I think about any
cultural institutions, the history museum
is unlike any other I’ve experienced– not
just in our region, but beyond our region–
because they really do tackle some of the tough
issues that are present. Our commitment to telling
our region’s story has led to recognition
as a national leader in museum exhibitions
and museum education. Our publications,
documentaries, and our work in diversity, accessibility,
equity, and inclusion has led to national recognition. As we move beyond
our 150th year, we’re sharing more history with
more people than ever before. In 2018, the Soldier’s Memorial
Military Museum will open as a state-of-the-art museum
facility honoring military service veterans
and their families. We are committed to continuing
to build exhibits that resonate with our community and that
bring history to life in new, surprising, and dynamic ways. Visitors who learn
of our region’s past in ways that make
it relevant today, and they’ll even get the chance
to leave stories of their own. They’ll discover the historic
and hysterical, the wonderful and the weird, the
beautiful and bizarre that make up the collections
of the Missouri Historical Society. By exploring the past that
we have as a community, this institution brings to light
those stories that really have meaning for what we
are addressing now and what our possibilities
are in the future. It’s great to be part
of the History Museum and watch it grow, and
watch it educate the youth and help them understand
what’s going on in the world and why is this as relevant
today as it was 100 years ago. When I joined the board,
I gained an even greater appreciation of all
the hard work that’s done here at the museum,
the amount of talent that we have here at the museum,
the award-winning programming that occurs. The more we know about
the region’s history, the more connected we are
as a community, the more invested we are in
our future together. At 150 years young, the
Missouri Historical Society is the institution of
our founders’ dreams. We are worthy of
the ages, committed to the preservation of
our history and service to our community. [MUSIC PLAYING]

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