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Artifacts from the MHM collection
19, August 2011

In Search of the Great Mastodon...Tooth

This November, the Missouri History Museum will host Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age, which comes to us from the Field Museum in Chicago. Ever since I joined the staff of MHM in 1997, I had heard stories of a mastodon tooth in our collections, but had not come across anyone who had actually seen it, or had reason or time to search for it. Curator Sharon Smith and I decided to track it down. Sharon first checked our database for a storage location. Read more »

17, June 2011

Sketches of War

As a conservation lab technician I have the privilege of working with objects from the Missouri History Museum’s collections, and each new day comes with another historically significant object. One of my responsibilities is assessing the condition of artifacts that are tentatively included in the Museum’s upcoming exhibit, The Civil War in Missouri (opening November 11, 2011). While examining several of these objects, I noticed that many of the pencil drawings were all signed by the same artist: Alex Simplot. Read more »

2, June 2011

The Heavy on Mortar Shells

Museum professionals have to be creative in responding to the different types of challenges that arise in the workplace. For example, how do you move a museum artifact that weighs more than 200 pounds? The artifact in question is a mortar shell that will be included in the Missouri History Museum’s upcoming exhibit The Civil War in Missouri (opening November 11, 2011). During the Civil War, this type of shell could be launched more than two miles using a Model 1861 13-inch Siege and Seacoast mortar. These mortars could be used on either land or water. Read more »

1, June 2011

Diary of Adam Burns Smith

Adam Burns Smith enlisted with Co. B of the 33rd Missouri Infantry Volunteers (Union) in Jefferson City on August 14, 1862. The next year Smith found himself in the midst of Gen. U. S. Grant’s protracted campaign to capture Vicksburg. Like many soldiers, Smith kept a journal to record the daily events of his life. His lengthy, and often detailed, entries described operations along the Tallahatchie River in Mississippi and around Helena, Arkansas, including skirmishes with rebel forces at Fort Pemberton near Greenwood, Mississippi, and gunboat maneuvers. Read more »

5, April 2011

Test Your Knowledge of Pottery!

Can you identify the different types of pottery? Do you know what each type is used for? Here is a brief look at the basic types of ceramics and their functions.



The wide body of pitchers narrows toward the top to form a neck, which widens outward to form the mouth. A pinched area on the front of the clay acts like a spout. Their bodies are quite often very heavy toward the bottom to prevent them from tipping. Read more »

23, March 2011

Looking at the Museum's Collection of German-Influenced Pottery

In my research on the Missouri History Museum's handmade ceramics, I came across a very interesting collection of pottery made by German Missourians, especially those found around the Boonville area, in the 19th century. Some of the ceramics in this collection were acquired by Charles van Ravenswaay, former director of the Museum. Read more »

17, February 2011

Clay Products and St. Louis Businesses

I’m Alex Choate, a graduate student in the Museum Studies program at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. As part of my studies, I volunteer at the Missouri History Museum, where I am completing a large research project on the Museum’s pottery and ceramic collection.

Ceramics proved to be an important product for local businesses in St. Louis and the surrounding area in the middle to late 19th century. Read more »

2, February 2011

Hidden Spoons Stir Up a Mystery

One of our most recent donations combines a mysterious find with modern technology to fill a gap in our collections! The story begins in New York State, when the donor was cleaning an air duct in her house after a renovation project generated lots of dust. Much to her surprise, she found that someone had hidden some silver spoons in the ductwork. Perhaps this was done during the 1980s when silver briefly became more valuable than usual because of the Hunt brothers’ attempt to corner the silver market. Read more »

5, November 2010

Letter to Charles Lindbergh Makes a Return Flight 83 Years Later

Here is a curatorial feel-good story about one boy’s letter to Charles Lindbergh and how a copy of it made its way back home.

Over nine years ago, I was in the process of selecting artifacts for a 6,000-square-foot exhibit commemorating the New York to Paris flight that Lindbergh made in 1927. The Missouri History Museum has the largest collection of gifts Lindbergh received for his various flights from 1927 onward, as well as a large archival collection including thousands of letters of congratulations from around the world. Read more »

29, October 2010

Haute Couture History

French designer Christian Dior made this rich red bubble dress circa 1956. He understood how architecture could translate into structurally challenging dresses, and this style of dress is a wonderful example of how he blended his love of architecture and fashion.

The bubble dress is a feat of engineering made possible by the inner construction and draping. Read more »