State Historical Society of Missouri holds final week of ‘Music in Missouri’ exhibit

The exhibit tells the history of Missouri through its musical contributions.

Connection is the central idea to the State Historical Society of Missouri, as well as their exhibit Music in Missouri. Even the State Historical Society of Missouri building was built with this goal in mind, hoping to serve as a bridge to connect the MU campus and the city of Columbia.

The concept of confluence is illustrated in this exhibit through the celebration of different communities. It shows how the state comes together through unique contributions to music history.

“If you explore the exhibit, you can see a number of different cultures, different races, different genders,” Maggie Mayhan, the assistant director of the State Historical Society, said.

She hopes that when visitors are at the museum, “they become aware of the role that Missouri plays in shaping national culture.” The highlighting of different cultures makes this exhibit timely and relevant to recent events in the United States.

The exhibit offers a new way to look at Missouri’s history and features a wide range of artists.

“From Scott Joplin, Charlie Parker and Chuck Berry to Sheryl Crow and Nelly, Missouri has shaped the history of American music in monumental ways,” Clinton Lawson, the education associate at State Historical Society of Missouri, said.

The exhibit is large and encompasses an entire wall of the building. Museumgoers can browse the display by walking down the hallway and reading through it in a linear timeline fashion. In addition to the visual aspect, guests can also listen along to the music in an oral history podcast episode narrated by Lawson.

The State Historical Society of Missouri has managed to continue in-person exhibits while following MU’s Show Me Renewal plan. The pandemic has affected the State Historical Society of Missouri in many ways, but they have been able to remain partially open.

“We used to have a lot more students that came in just off the streets,” security guard Johanna Grothoff said. “Since we are a nonprofit, it's really cut down on what we can do financially.”

To help keep those who are visiting the building safe, the State Historical Society of Missouri has made changes to their normal practices.

“We've put out hand sanitizers everywhere and the research center. Specifically, we've reduced our hours and said it's mostly appointment only,” Grothoff said.

However, there have been some unexpected silver linings from the pandemic. The State Historical Society of Missouri has launched more virtual programs and connected with a new audience across the state, nation and even the globe.

“We are not limited by geographical boundaries,” Mayhan said.

Nearly 5,000 people have registered for different online programs with the State Historical Society of Missouri, including events like virtual tours and educational presentations.

“We’ve found that being able to connect with so many more people in a virtual space has been very exciting,” said Mayhan.

After the pandemic, the State Historical Society of Missouri hopes to continue its virtual events in a hybrid format. They are also very excited to start accommodating more people at their exhibits and to reinstate their in-person events.

The Music in Missouri exhibit will be open through Feb. 18, 2021, at the State Historical Society of Missouri in downtown Columbia.

Edited by Angelina Edwards |

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