Columbia museums provide summer opportunities for learning

Thursday, June 26, 2008 | 1:42 p.m. CDT; updated 4:19 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Boone County Historical Society intern Travis Pringle gives guided tours of Boone Junction. The parlor is where guests were brought upon arrival to the Maplewood house, and it still contains the original piano of Lavinia, the daughter of Slater Ensor and Margaret Bradford Lenir who built the house in 1877.

COLUMBIA — Just because the kids are out of school does not mean their education has to end. Here are five Columbia museums, each with diverse and unique exhibits. Many offer children’s programs as well as opportunities for lifelong learners. A museum is a wallet-friendly way to spend the day as many are free or cost less than $10.


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1 Pickard Hall, MU

9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays


Visit or call 882-3591

For those looking for a diverse array of exhibitions, the Museum of Art and Archaeology offers art from around the world alongside archaeological exhibits — “from cave to contemporary,” as museum Director Alex Barker put it.

Because of its association with MU, the museum is committed to adding to knowledge rather than solely showcasing art and exhibits.

“Most other museums only interpret art for the public, but we actively do research,” Barker said. “In this sense, we are rather unusual.”

The Museum of Art and Archaeology also offers programs for all age groups, including a “Healing Arts” program for people with Alzheimer’s Disease and programs targeted toward children. One such program is the flashlight tours, during which the lights in the museum are turned off and flashlights are used to illuminate the art.

Behind-the-scenes tours led by docents and staff are available upon request.

“We’re trying to get away from just exhibiting things,” Barker said. “One of our goals is to break down people’s intimidation regarding art museums. We want to get people engaged by art.”


3801 Ponderosa St.

12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays

Admission is $4 for adults and $2 for children 12 and younger for Boone Junction tours

Call 443-8936 to schedule a group tour

From the outside, the Walters-Boone County Historical Museum resembles a traditional wooden farmhouse. Its interior displays the history of Boone County and the surrounding area in the context of westward expansion.

“We’re interested in the development of Boone County and how business, how agriculture and how world events impacted our community,” Deborah Thompson, the museum’s executive director, said.

The museum, operated by the Boone County Historical Society, features several permanent displays alongside history and art exhibits that are rotated out about 13 times a year. Each of the local art displays lasts for six to 12 weeks.

“The purpose of the gallery of local artists is for the community to see the really talented people who surround them everyday,” Thompson said.

Among the permanent displays is the J.W. “Blind” Boone piano, named for the ragtime pianist. Musicians give concerts on this piano on a regular basis.

The “Wall of Fame” is another permanent fixture, which displays the famous faces of Boone County, from early settlers to the 20th century.

Free walking tours of Boone Junction, which showcases three historic buildings, are another attraction. The Maplewood house is an example of a late 19th century home; the Gordon-Collins cabin is a log building that has survived since about 1820; and the Easley country store allows visitors to see what an old-time country store was like.

“To sum up our purpose in one sentence: We exist to celebrate our area and the people in it and their role in the greater world,” Thompson said.


608 E. Cherry St.

10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays

Admission is $8 for 14 and older, $5 for children 4 to 13, and free for children 3 and younger.

Call 886-2006 or visit

A recent addition to Columbia is YouZeum, a self-described “interactive science center where it’s all about you.” It is by no means a traditional museum. At the YouZeum you will not find a security guard telling you to keep your hands off the exhibits or shouting “no flash photography.” In fact, its multitude of exhibits are highly interactive and meant to be touched.

“The YouZeum is a fun, hands-on way to learn about how the body works and how to take care of it,” Gwen Robbins, the museum’s executive director, said.

Every exhibit has different layers of comprehension, which are meant to appeal to all ages. “I often see Mom and Dad having as much fun as the kids,” Robbins said.

The YouZeum offers an assortment of exhibits, including an interactive emergency room where kids can pretend to be paramedics and a virtual diner where kids can learn about making healthy food choices.

The YouZeum was made by people in the Columbia area and the idea came from local residents. “Everything we did here, we created,” Robbins said. “Ideas come from local talent, board members and experts in the community. It’s 100 percent unique to Columbia.”


Next to the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in the MKT Nature and Fitness Trail parking lot on Stadium Boulevard

By appointment


Call 442-8407

For anyone who has ever wondered about the birds visiting their backyard or has an interest in local wildlife, the Columbia Audubon Society Trailside Nature Center is the place to go.

The nature center houses a series of bird’s nest dioramas, with carved wooden birds representing the inhabitants of each type of nest. The background art for the dioramas was created by Columbia members of the Audubon Society.

The museum does not solely feature birds; it also showcases several mammal skulls and plaster casts of their tracks.

A major draw of the museum is its location alongside the MKT Trail and next to the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial gardens. The trailside site allows visitors to apply what they see in the museum to a natural setting.

“We like to have people come through the nature center and see things and then get involved in a walk down the trail to actually see things in the wild,” said Denny Donnell, the center’s chairman.

One of the most popular exhibits is a hummingbird nest, Donnell said. “People just cannot believe how tiny they are.”


100 Swallow Hall, MU

9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays. The museum is open some Saturdays, with no hours specified.


Tours are available by appointment at 882-3573 or go to

The Museum of Anthropology at MU is one of the few museums of anthropology in the Midwest and the only one in Missouri.

Because the museum does not have a lot of display space, the museum has an extensive online photographic database of its exhibits available on its Web site. The museum also makes great use of its space at the Museum Support Center on Rock Quarry Road south of Stadium Boulevard where they store more artifacts that the regular museum building does not have space to display.

The support center houses the Grayson Archery Collection, which is one of the largest and most comprehensive archery collections in the world.

For children visiting the museum, there are “Cultures of the World” classes, which include presentations of artifacts, games and crafts from a variety of cultures.

“Kids can pick up an axe head and see how heavy it is,” associate curator Candace Sall said about the hands-on nature of the classes. “They can see how it fits in their hand. It’s nice to be able to touch things.”

On tours of the museum, children can also participate in scavenger hunts.

“Probably the kids’ favorite thing is a raincoat made out of seal intestines,” Sall said. “They like gross things.”

Space in these classes is limited, so participants are encouraged to register.

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