Every year, Aug. 10 marks the anniversary of Missouri’s entrance into the Union. This year, as noted by the society’s executive director Gary Kremer, the date bore even more significance, as it marked a transformational moment for the State Historical Society of Missouri and for residents hoping to learn more about the state.
“This is the first time in our history that we will occupy a building specifically designed and built for the State Historical Society in Missouri,” Kremer said. “That is a really good feeling.”
Kremer was one of several who spoke before a crowd gathered Saturday morning for the grand opening of the Center for Missouri Studies, the new home for the historical society. Current and former elected officials, MU representatives and many from the public came together to celebrate and tour the new building, which was under construction for over two years.
Many on hand, including Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, mentioned the bipartisan work necessary to make the building a reality.
“It is not something that happens overnight,” he said. “It takes a long, long time and a lot of peoples’ efforts to get behind it.”
Sen. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, talked about the center as an example of what the future can look like if all sides work together.
“We didn’t care about partisanship, we didn’t care about where it was, we just knew that this was something that needed to happen and we worked together to do it,” Rowden said.
After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, many from the crowd moved indoors. Live music from The Third Switch, a mid-Missouri band, greeted attendees who eagerly explored the new facility.
The society’s previous location was the basement of Ellis Library. Susan Flader, an MU professor emerita of history, recalled bringing her students to the society’s former location every semester. She said she hopes the new location will draw more people to study Missouri’s history.
Rep. Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia, said he was first exposed to the State Historical Society of Missouri while doing a research project as a student at MU. He said his appreciation for the society’s holdings only grew as a legislator.
Columbia resident Jeff Harris, who served as policy director for former Gov. Jay Nixon, helped the project secure funding in the state budget. Harris noted the project enjoyed bipartisan support, echoing the sentiment expressed by many others in attendance.
As a sixth-generation Missourian, Harris said he is incredibly moved by what the new building means for the state.
The building design was inspired by the idea of confluence, reflecting Missouri’s importance as the meeting point of two of the country’s greatest rivers, the Missouri and Mississippi, according to a news release from the society. At 76,700 square feet, the building provides nearly 49,000 square feet more space than the Ellis Library facility.
The society’s collections include hundreds of thousands of artifacts and holdings, including oral histories, photographs, rare books, manuscript collections, Civil War manuscript pages, newspapers and maps.
The center also houses an auditorium, which will accommodate lectures, films and other large public events; a gallery to display some of the society’s art collections; classrooms and meeting rooms; an expanded research center; and facilities for preserving and studying Missouri’s history.
In addition to its Columbia location, the historical society has research centers in Cape Girardeau, Kansas City, Rolla, St. Louis and Springfield, and draws researchers from all over the world, according to its website.
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