After more than a decade of planning, fundraising and building — along with a few unexpected hurdles and delays — the Missouri Civil War Museum finally opened its doors to the public this summer. And while the majority of the artifacts are not even on display yet, the museum is already proving to be a valuable addition to the area's cultural landscape.
Housed in the historic 1905 Post Exchange & Gymnasium in Jefferson Barracks, the museum tells the story of Missouri's unique and often misunderstood role in the Civil War through a range of historical artifacts dispersed across two floors of exhibit space. The museum's easy-to-read displays do a nice job of contextualizing the Show-Me State's involvement in the war, from the Missouri Compromise of 1820 to the rise of the state's pro-Confederate guerillas, who included the notorious Bloody Bill Anderson, as well as Frank and Jesse James.
Currently displayed artifacts include a broad range of Civil War-era weapons, military uniforms, musical instruments, surgical tools, flags, photos and paintings. But the museum's chairman Mark Trout says these items represent just the tip of the iceberg. "We have about 400 artifacts on display today, but we have about 1,200 additional artifacts that will eventually be a part of our galleries," he said. The museum also has located a Civil War-era train caboose that they hope to move on site in the near future.
Also in the works is a 6,000-square-foot library and educational center to be housed in the building next door to the main museum. Trout says that the space will include more than 900 books for research use by students and scholars alike. He also expects the space to used for school field trips, lectures and documentary screenings.
If the St. Louis County Economic Council has anything to say about it, the Missouri Civil War Museum will be just one component of a much larger effort to turn Jefferson Barracks into a national tourism destination dedicated to American military history with a range of exhibits, libraries and museums commemorating past wars, conflicts and military leaders. Proposed projects include a presidential library and museum for Ulysses S. Grant. The new museum district would join other attractions and institutions within Jefferson Barracks, including a National Guard base, the Veterans Affairs Health Care System, the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, two county parks and — of course — the Missouri Civil War Museum.
While local leaders debate the details of the proposed expansion, Jefferson Barracks' newest tenants are focused on their own future. "We've been working on this for the past decade," Trout said of the Missouri Civil War Museum. "Now that the doors are open to the public, we're just entering a new phase. Phase one is over, and we're looking forward to phase two."
The Missouri Civil War Museum is located at 222 Worth Road in South St. Louis County. The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission is $7 for adults, $6 for those 65 and older and $5 for kids ages 5 to 12. Admission is free for active military and kids under 5. Call 314-845-1861 for more information.