State Historical Society of Missouri to make some artworks available online

Friday, February 19, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Missouri residents will have greater access to the state’s visual history by mid-summer, thanks to a grant given to the State Historical Society of Missouri.

The society, located in Ellis Library at MU, possesses thousands of famous photographs, paintings and cartoons. Many of these pieces, previously only available at the society, will now be accessible online.

Many famous pieces are being digitized, including 28 paintings by George Caleb Bingham and around 300 works by Thomas Hart Benton. This includes Benton’s illustrations for “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and “Life on the Mississippi.”

Gerald Hirsch, the information systems manager at the society, said the pieces have not been publicly available since the 1930s and 1940s.

"Bingham and Benton are two of Missouri's most famous artists, and it's a wonderful opportunity to share this artwork not only in Columbia, but all over," said Gary Kremer, the executive director at the society.

Hirsch said the project began after receiving more than $42,000 in grant funding earlier this month. The grant is supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, administered by the Missouri State Library. The project should be finished by the middle of the summer, he said.

“The Society is hoping to be able to get these images out so the public can see them,”  Hirsch said.

The online gallery will also include more than 3,500 photographs and much of the society’s cartoon collection. Most notably, the online gallery will contain cartoons created for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch by Pulitzer Prize-winning artists Daniel Fitzpatrick and Bill Mauldin, whose works reflect the attitudes and events of the 20th century.

The society will also convert oral histories and interviews from 40 Missouri political leaders and activists to digital audio format with the grant money.

Hirsch said this will widen the society’s audience and will change the way people view the art. The pieces will also be more accessible for education purposes and to art lovers, said Kremer.

“We will be able to reach greater audiences, not only in Columbia,” Hirsch said. “Everyone will now be able to view these pieces.”

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