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Missouri History Museum takeover of Soldiers Memorial clears another hurdle

Soldiers Memorial Military Museum
Bill Smith | St. Louis Beacon | File photo
Soldiers Memorial Military Museum

The Missouri History Museum moved another step closer to taking over operations of Soldiers Memorial Military Museum in downtown St. Louis. Trustees voted Wednesday at a special board meeting.  Missouri Historical Society Chairman Harry Rich said this is a fantastic deal for the city.

“There’s an opportunity for a major improvement in a facility that will still be owned by the city,” he said.

The resolution states that the History Museum will continue negotiations with the City to conduct memorial renovations, staffing, collections maintenance, and management.  The annual operations budget is estimated to be $1.25 million with renovation estimates totaling roughly $25 million.  The expense of these operations will be provided by private donors, including the anonymously-funded Soldiers Memorial, LLC. Efforts to pass operating responsibilities from the city to the Missouri Historical Society began over a year ago

The groundwork was set by a June 18, 2014 agreement that involved the city, the Historical Society and Soldiers Memorial, LLC in which the Museum began processing and assessing the Memorial’s collection.  Last year Soldiers Memorial, LLC made a gift of $917,000 for this purpose. This spring all three entities began exploring their long-term commitment to the arrangement. Museum director Fran Levine said the city’s decisions not to make some minor renovation can be seen as a surprising benefit to the new plan.

“The city simply didn’t have the funds to commit to renovation. In a way, that’s the good news because they didn’t do anything that compromised the beautiful architecture of that building,” she said. 

Under the terms of the agreement the city will maintain ownership of the memorial and the History Museum will be responsible for executing the daily operations, programming and staffing. 

The inventory and processing of Soldiers Memorial's collections is expected to be complete in 2016.  The board’s resolution will now be pursued with the city’s Board of Alderman for their eventual approval or refusal.