Graduate students collaborate on ‘Arch Perspectives’ exhibition

Arch Perspectives process

Graduate student Tim Young conducts research for a museum studies class project titled “Arch Perspectives.” The resulting student-developed exhibition will be on view in the Missouri History Museum’s Atrium Gallery for six months beginning in late August. (Photos by Judith Williams)

“In or out?”

Gathered around a long table at the Missouri History Museum, seven women and four men sit silent a moment, weighing the fate of an image projected on a large screen.

The University of Missouri–St. Louis museum studies students are narrowing down possibilities for a “logo wall” that will feature wide-ranging appropriations of the iconic Gateway Arch. As they deliberate, Sam Moore documents the group’s verdicts on his laptop.

“I’ll tell you what – this whole process has made me love Google Docs,” he says. “It’s been a very interesting lesson in teamwork, because 11 voices is a lot of voices.”

The graduate students are wrapping up their final group meeting for “Arch Perspectives,” a project under the direction of Maris Boyd Gillette, the E. Desmond Lee Professor of Museum Studies and Community History at UMSL, titled “Arch Perspectives.” Sifting through the logos of countless non-profit organizations that have made the regional symbol part of their brands is just one small piece of the semester-long effort.

Diving deep into research at cultural institutions throughout the St. Louis region in recent months, the work will culminate in a major exhibition at the Missouri History Museum beginning Aug. 22.

Arch Perspectives research

Andrea Miller, a second-year museum studies student, examines a birds-eye view of the St. Louis riverfront as it appeared prior to the 1939 demolition for the Arch that would appear two decades later.

“People were really energetic and devoted to the work,” Gillette says of the class members. “We’ve researched and designed the entire exhibit.”

When the show gets under way in late August, it will delve into many aspects of the Gateway Arch, which was completed 50 years ago but first envisioned and voted on three decades prior, during the Great Depression.

“Born of eminent domain and Depression-era joblessness, built of modernist inspiration and the fight for equal rights, and home to protests and parties,” an introduction to the student-developed exhibition reads, “the history of the Gateway Arch tells an important story about our city.”

Throughout the spring 2015 semester, the group met three times a week, typically for three hours at a time. Their work focused on four main thrusts of the exhibition: a narrative history, community input, the logo wall and a set of Arch facts for visitors to explore.

“It has been really exciting to see all of that come together,” said first-year student Hannah Streicher, who has helped to spearhead some of the digital and community-input components of the project. In addition to photographs, leaflets and newspaper clippings, the exhibition will feature collected #MyGatewayArch stories and photos from community members.

“What does #MyGatewayArch mean to you?” the museum studies students are asking the public via social media and on story cards they’ve been handing out at events.

After the exhibition is mounted in August, it will remain on display and open to the public in the history museum’s Atrium Gallery until Jan. 24, 2016.

Marie Morgan, a second-year student in the museum studies program, says the process has given her a sense of “just how exciting” various jobs in her chosen field can be. She and the other students have worked closely not only with Gillette but with Missouri History Museum staff to bring the project to fruition.

Unlike some group projects, this one has a life beyond final presentations or the walls of the typical classroom, adds her classmate Andrea Miller.

The students continue to seek additional Arch-related stories for inclusion in the exhibition. For more information, contact Hannah Streicher (hrosestreicher@gmail.com) or Sam Moore (sjmoore90@gmail.com).

The UMSL Experience

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