Active in the St. Louis community since 1866, the Missouri Historical Society is putting a modern spin on the past with an updated look and tagline to engage new audiences on a deeper level.
The Missouri Historical Society operates three entities: the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park; the Library & Research Center just west of Forest Park; and Soldiers Memorial, a $30 million project slated to open downtown in November 2018.
“St. Louisans have a lot of civic pride, and so much of that is tied into this region’s unique history,” Leigh Walters, assistant director of communications, said in a release. “One of our goals with this campaign is to help people recognize the history around them in everyday moments and thus foster a better understanding of the relevance and significance of the work we do at each of the Missouri Historical Society’s locations.”
Working with St. Louis-based marketing agency UPBrand Collaborative to unite three institutions under one brand, the society has undergone a full revamp, including a new website and a new tagline to “Find Yourself Here.”
“The tagline came out of all the research we did in finding out what people think of us,” Walters says. “Some of the consistent things we’re heard were diverse, a safe place to have conversations, welcoming, innovative and nationally recognized. ‘Find Yourself Here’ just makes so much sense and spoke to the diversity here.”
Striving to collect stories of everyone who has called St. Louis home, including underrepresented groups, the society aims to preserve, share and interpret those stories through its online and print publications as well as its three physical locations.
By learning from the past, we can build a better future, Walters says. “History is in every aspect of your life,” she explains. “There is history in the path you walk and the people who were there before you. There is history in the decisions our policymakers are making today. Knowing the history of how we got here can help us all to make better decisions.”
The whole region has an amazing history that has made an impact not just locally, but throughout the country, Walters says. “There’s Cahokia, the mound city, as well as the Louisiana Purchase and the World’s Fair — the history of this region is incredibly deep,” she says. “It’s our job to preserve that history so it’s not just here for you to see but for your children and grandchildren.”
During the rebranding process, the society sought ways to emphasize emotional connections to the past and to help people understand that “history isn’t back there, it’s all around you and right in front of you,” says Debra Cummings, marketing manager for the Missouri Historical Society. “The people who love St. Louis love connecting with that history, especially the little things they can relate to personally, like Cardinals history or the history of Forest Park. Our exhibits are incredibly interactive, modern and engaging, so we want to connect with a younger audience and let them know there’s something here for them by making it more exciting, accessible and offering a personal connection to history.”
“If you look at history as just facts on a page, it doesn’t mean anything, but when you realize what a person’s experience was like, it can resonate in such a deeper way,” Walters says. “Once we get people in the door at the Missouri History Museum, they see and feel that emotional connection. When people go to the Library & Research Center and uncover some amazing stories within the archives, they experience that. And we look forward to helping visitors connect with military history, and how local people took part in events that changed the world, when we reopen Soldiers Memorial in November.”
The Library & Research Center provides access to primary sources. “It is an incredible non-lending research library,” Walters says. “You can go there and research your house history and genealogy. If you have a connection to this region, you can find stories there that belong to you, whether it’s newspaper clippings from 1800 or your grandmother’s yearbook. We also have incredible historical content available online.”
Furthermore, the Missouri Historical Society has one of the largest collections of artifacts and historical materials of any regional history museum in the U.S. “St. Louisans should be very proud of that,” Walters says. “We’ve been collecting for 150 years and that, by American historical society standards, is a very long time.”
Learn more about the rebrand and check out the new promotional video ushering in a new era for the society at mohistory.org/find-yourself. M