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Wash U, History Museum Seeking Ferguson Artifacts

Missouri History Museum employees dig through ash and scrap metal for artifacts on Jan. 29, 2015, at the burned-out Fashions R Boutique in Ferguson.
Emanuele Berry
St. Louis Public Radio

The Missouri History Museum and Washington University are making sure artifacts from Ferguson are preserved.

Washington University is saving media captured and created since Michael Brown’s death on Aug. 9 in Ferguson. In addition to a lot of photos and video, that also includes minutes from community meetings, stories and art, Shannon Davis, digital projects librarian at the university, told “Cityscape” host Steve Potter on Friday. The university created Documenting Ferguson, a digital repository, in August.

The Missouri History Museum is collecting physical artifacts through its Ferguson Collecting Initiative. On Thursday, the museum’s collections staff visited a burned-out business in Ferguson, looking for artifacts to add to its permanent collection.  

“It was a unique opportunity to collect artifacts from the present, really, that we hope will represent history in the future,” said Christopher Gordon, library and collections director at the museum.

The museum and the university are seeking artifact donations, which may include protest signs, fliers, T-shirts and other memorabilia.

“I know this is an emotional issue, and some people may not want to part with what they have now,” Gordon said. “I hope that they will consider us in the future, certainly. As much as we can collect now, the better the story will be told.”

The Washington University library has not yet decided what it will do with its collection. Davis said it will be used as research and in teaching, but the staff is just starting to figure out what’s next.

The history museum also will use its collection for research. Some pieces also may appear in future exhibits.

“The goal right now is to build a research collection. It’s build that story through documents and artifacts,” Gordon said. “All of our collections are open to the public, so anyone can come and request to look at the items and study them. There’s not a specific Ferguson exhibit that’s planned right now, but there is a civil rights exhibit that’s coming up in a couple (of) years. I’m sure that will be incorporated.”

To add items to Washington University’s Documenting Ferguson, visit digital.wustl.edu/ferguson. To add items to the Missouri History Museum’s Ferguson Collecting Initiative, visit support.mohistory.org/pages/artifact-donations, or call 314-746-4599.

“Cityscape” is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and sponsored in part by the Missouri Arts Council, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis.