Soldiers Memorial Military Museum has been a landmark in downtown St. Louis for nearly 100 years. Recently reopened after a $30 million renovation, its natural beauty has been enhanced, and it features newly expanded exhibition space and compelling exhibits that tell the stories of wars and conflicts through the lives of St. Louisans.
Missouri Historical Society enlivens museum’s offerings
Now managed by the Missouri Historical Society, Soldiers Memorial’s engaging tours and lively programs echo those at the award-winning Missouri History Museum, also managed by MHS.
“We have completely revamped the spaces, inventoried the collection, recreated the two core galleries and created special exhibit space downstairs to tell yet another story,” said Tami Goldman, tourism and sales manager.
An opening exhibition focuses on World War I, fitting as the memorial opened in 1938 to honor the 1,075 St. Louisans who died in that war and reopened on the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I.
Interactive museum theater tours an option
Groups can choose among self-guided tours, docent-led tours or a two-hour tour enlivened by museum theater. Group tours will be offered starting January 2.
Marvin-Alonzo Greer, education and visitor experience lead, has created theater productions that focus on an event or person and can be performed in the museum or on a stage. Either way, performers will interact with their audience.
One of Greer’s scripts is based on letters of an African-American soldier who served in one of seven St. Louis regiments of the U.S.
Colored Troops during the Civil War.
Through such experiences, Greer says, the memorial answers the question “How did people from St. Louis impact not just Missouri, not just the U.S., but the world and how did those contributions influence generations to come?”
“They are universal stories that will connect with people from all over the country,” said Goldman.
Always striking, Soldiers Memorial now shines
Every effort was made to maintain the architectural and historic integrity of this beautiful art deco building while also bringing the 1938 structure up to contemporary museum standards. Unique metalwork on windows and doorways was cleaned and preserved, decorative plasterwork on ceilings restored, and original art deco light fixtures were cleaned and rewired.
Accessibility was a major consideration, and the historic landmark is now ADA compliant. Improvements range from more readable type to a new ramp that serves as an accessible entrance at the front of the building. “Accessibility advisory committee members said, ‘We want to come in the front door like everyone else’,” said Greer. “We want this to be a welcoming building for any guest.”
Four statues that flank the building have been cleaned and restored. They are by Walker Hancock, a St. Louis artist and one of the famed World War II Monuments Men. To allow sight-impaired visitors to better grasp their beauty, one statue was reproduced in a small size and is displayed so those visitors can “see” it with their hands.
Outdoors, the Court of Honor, created as the City’s World War II memorial in 1948, been revitalized with a Five Branches Fountain and a reflecting pool. Monuments to those who lost their lives in Korea and Vietnam have been added, along with new memorials to St. Louisans who lost their lives in more recent conflicts.
While many military museums seem primarily designed for veterans, the new Soldiers Memorial is aimed at a broad audience.
“We want this state-of-the-art museum to be not only for veterans, who are very important to this picture, but also a place where everyone will feel comfortable and intrigued as they learn about the conflicts that have faced St. Louisans from the American Revolution to the present day,” said Goldman.
Soldiers Memorial Military Museum
1315 Chestnut Street
To book your tour call 314-361-9017, or visit mohistory.org/soldiers-tours/
For questions contact Tami Goldman, Tourism and Group Sales Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org
There are three designated dropoffs for motorcoaches, including one near the front entrance. The memorial has no café, but several nearby restaurants welcome groups.