Show Me Missouri

A statewide collaborative digital exhibit telling the story of Missouri and Missourians through the lens of 200 historically and culturally significant objects.

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Missouri and the Western Steamboat

No object better reflected early Missouri’s history than the iconic western paddlewheel steamboat. Missouri boasts of access to two of the nation’s major interior rivers — the Missouri and the Mississippi, and, therefore, the steamboat figures prominently in the early history of the state. Oftentimes, Americans romanticize the steamboat age as a time of slow …

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Social and Working Conditions of Enslaved Families and Communities

During slavery and for years after, white Missourians often boasted that their state’s border location rendered slavery milder than down river in the Cotton Kingdom of the Deep South. They often pointed to Missouri’s more temperate climate, a less arduous work regime, and the “domestic” relations of slavery in a state with few large plantations as …

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Homer G. Phillips: Transforming Missouri Medicine

In the first half of the twentieth century, segregation and discriminatory practices kept Missouri’s Black residents from accessing equitable medical education and healthcare. After years of lobbying for adequate hospitals, in 1937, St. Louis welcomed a state-of-the-art medical center to serve the Black community. The construction of Homer G. Phillips Hospital represented a transformational moment …

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Commemorating Missouri's Bicentennial

Missouri’s quest for statehood created a national political firestorm over the expansion of slavery into the West. After two years of debate, it ended in a 1820 “compromise” that dictated the terms by which this issue would be decided in the future. But in the end, Missouri’s birth as a state was achieved at the expense of many Black Missourians, who suffered enslavement for another 44 years, and the wholesale removal of Indigenous Missourians to make room for a flood of new white settlers. The state went on to play a repeated and significant role in the sectional political conflict that led to the Civil War through events such as the fight over the status of slavery in Kansas Territory and the Dred Scott Decision. Missourians sided with both the Union and the Confederacy during the Civil War, leading to battles between contesting armies, vicious guerrilla violence, massive loss of life, displacement of civilians, and the destruction of property throughout much of the state. And in the aftermath of the war, Missourians suffered from lingering animosities and conflicted regional identities as they worked to rebuild their society. This troubled past complicates efforts to commemorate Missouri’s birth as a state. Simply put, how should we celebrate the founding and early history of a state with such a challenging – and in many ways, problematic – history?

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