Gemini exhibit shows Missouri's involvement in the space race

Monday, March 23, 2009 | 11:00 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — "The St. Louis Gemini Story," an exhibit that shows Missouri's history of involvement in the space race, is on display at the State Historical Society of Missouri.

The exhibit illustrates the main themes and events of NASA’s Project Gemini. The project was conducted from 1963 to 1966 to practice and test procedures necessary to meet then-President John F. Kennedy’s challenge to have an astronaut land on the moon before the end of the decade.

Although the Gemini’s involvement in the space race is a major theme in the exhibit, it’s important to Missouri history as well.

"What was fun about this exhibit was discovering how involved Missouri was in the space race,” said Joan Stack, curator of art collections at the State Historical Society of Missouri.

The Gemini was designed, built and tested by many St. Louisans who worked for the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, which was close to Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. The efforts of the Gemini project hastened the success of the Apollo program, which placed the first man on the moon.

The exhibit was also featured at the University of Missouri-St. Louis campus. When it came to Columbia, Stack added pieces from the Western Historical Manuscript Collection to the exhibit.

“We wanted to add an artistic dimension,” said Stack, who sifted through a collection of editorial cartoons to choose those that best fit with the Gemini and space themes of the exhibit. The cartoons reflect the Gemini, the space race, lunar exploration and public sentiments about those topics. Some of the cartoons support the money spent on space explorations, while others reflected the views against it.

One of Stack’s favorite cartoons is of an astronaut reaching out towards the moon, which is drawn simply and without description.

Another of her favorites is of a Missouri donkey saluting an astronaut, which illustrates Missouri’s involvement in space exploration.

Besides cartoons, the exhibit includes other historical elements from the 1960s space race. There are postage stamps and patches that feature the Gemini, articles from magazines such as TIME and Aviation Week, letters, newsletters and other publications.

Large black-and-white, poster-sized photographs and some smaller, bright color photographs line the walls of the exhibit.

Another one of Stack’s favorite pictures from the exhibit is a of Kennedy visiting the Gemini mock capsule in St. Louis.

"The St. Louis Gemini Story" exhibit was chosen for display around the time of the moonwalk's 40th anniversary, which is on July 20, and will be in Columbia until May 16.

If you go

What: "The St. Louis Gemini Story," an exhibit about Missouri's involvement in the space race

Where: State Historical Society of Missouri, 1020 Lowry St. (on the ground floor on the east side of Ellis Library at MU)

When: 8 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Monday to Friday and 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday through May 16

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