The Missouri History Museum’s newest exhibits are likely home to the most history that’s ever been featured at one time, according to Jody Sowell, a former journalist and current director of exhibitions and research for the Missouri History Museum.
“Typically, when we do an exhibit about a specific theme, it’s about a certain era,” Sowell explains. “But in this one, the theme is photojournalism. By telling the stories through this lens, you get a lot more history than is displayed in a normal exhibit.”
“Some people will be more drawn to the St. Louis aspect of the show while others will be more drawn to the Pulitzer side,” Sowell says. “In both, they’ll find images that are familiar and ones that surprise. They will see incredibly important moments, like Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral, the Oklahoma City bombing and Hurricane Katrina.”
A traveling show developed by the Newseum, the Pulitzer portion is the largest collection of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs ever compiled into one exhibit.
“In the Pulitzer show, you’re getting 80 different snapshots of history, from labor to immigration to battles over transportation, and even a fight that breaks out during a busing disagreement,” he says. “What I love is that, through all these photos, you get a fascinating glimpse of history from the 1940s up to today. There are images of war, civil rights, health care, immigration and just amazing slices of everyday life that maybe you haven’t seen but really makes you think of the full 360-degree view of humanity — both the worst and the best.”
The Post-Dispatch exhibit, created by the news source in collaboration with the museum, features about 75 St. Louis-centric photos spanning from modern times back to the 1920s. Included in this portion are the 1978 rematch between St. Louis boxer Leon Spinks and Muhammed Ali, as well as one of the worst disasters in St. Louis aviation and civic history, among many other photos.
“We hope it will spark more interest in the past and a desire to read and learn more about these events,” he says. “We have some interactive elements within the exhibit so you can choose a photo you want to learn more about, and there’s also a film that tells the story behind some of photos.”
A few related events are scheduled in the Lee Auditorium at the museum for this summer and fall. At 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 21, St. Louis Post-Dispatch Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalists Robert Cohen and David Carson will speak about documenting the Ferguson protests in 2014. At 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 15, eight African American mothers will speak about life since the Ferguson unrest five years ago. And at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 24, there will be a film screening of “Voice of the People,” which delves into the life of reporter and publisher Joseph Pulitzer, who founded the Post-Dispatch.
The exhibits are on display through Jan. 20, 2020.