Thursday, September 13, 2012

Two Museums in a Day - The Missouri History Museum

A talkative woman from Kentucky was waiting at the stop for the park bus with me. I attempted to be polite, however, she was none too bright and decidedly uninteresting. I became a little edgy, praying for the bus to come so I could be relieved of this conversation. My saviour arrived and I boarded to ride to the History Museum at the front of the park. The park, the site of the 1904 World's Fair, is much larger than it appears on the maps I consulted prior to my trip. A full day, if not more, could be spent exploring it. The inclement weather, unfortunately, kept my personal explorations limited to those that could be accomplished from inside the bus.

The entrance to the Missouri History Museum, like the Art Museum is also classical in style. Large columns support a portico over it's doors. An addition has been added to the original structure. The frieze of the first building, constructed in 1913 using proceeds from the 1904 Fair, was located at what was the main entrance to the fairgrounds and is preserved inside the newer building. A copy of Lindbergh's plane, The Spirit of St. Louis, is suspended from the ceiling.

An exhibit is focused on the fair. It includes extensive historical information not only of the fair itself but also of the construction methods, some of them quite innovative in their time, used to create the buildings and grounds. It contains photographs, fair souvenirs and reproductions of several employee I.D. cards of the workers, accompanied by short bios on each of them. There are displays of items exhibited at the fair. It was the first World's Fair in which China participated which caused a great deal of excitement at the time. People eagerly anticipated a chance to explore a small piece of this exotic locale. On display is an ornate desk, featuring more drawers than traditional Asian furnishings, designed to appeal to the western market by an enterprising Chinese craftsman.

Appropriate fashion for fair attendees is featured. No tank tops, shorts and flip flops for this event! Hats, for both men and women, were a mandatory accessory of the day. Bowlers or straw boaters for men, elaborate feather and floral adorned creations for women. Judging from photos of the era, the "hat wars" among the women were vicious, bloody and brutal affairs. Women's dresses were long and modest. Cool lace and batiste was the order of the day for summer, transitioning to warmer wools as the weather turned cooler later in the year. For men, summer fashion was a sweltering combination of a shirt, featuring a tight, starched, stiff collar and tie, and a, again, mandatory jacket. Some particularly masochistic male fashionistas would add a vest to the already cumbersome and over warm costume. Considering Missouri's midsummer heat, I imagine one's nattily attired profile would last a half hour, tops!

There are maps of the fair, locating the various attractions, and a small section on the Olympics held in St Louis that year in conjunction with it. The first Olympics to be held in the U.S.

After the fair all of the structures, except for the building now housing the art museum, were demolished. Whatever could be reused was recycled and sold. Other items were buried under the park. There is one case devoted to ornamental fragments of some of the buildings that were unearthed in an archaeological dig conducted by local students.

Another room in the museum features a mixture of smaller exhibits. Here a walk through example of the modest home of a free black can be seen. In this area can also be found a fully outfitted, late 60's model VW camper van. It brought back to me memories of summer trips in vans exactly like this. I felt like a child wanting to explain to passersby, this counter lifts up to reveal the sink, the icebox is under it! This is the closet, the pantry is back by the hatchback, the table and seats fold down! That seat makes a double bed, there's storage under this one! The only difference was the smart looking black and red upholstery this car sported. Having four kids required our upholstery to be of a much more mundane and durable material.

No comments:

Post a Comment