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History database launches to celebrate Missouri’s 200th year

This photo of Ozark Air Lines DC-3 plane by the Arch was taken in the 1960s after the Arch was completed.
Courtesy: Ozark Silver Swallows
The Gateway Arch is one of the most iconic monuments in the country. Photos and research about the construction of the Arch and the history behind it can be found on the Missouri Bicentennial project database.

A group of Missouri nonprofits and government agencies has created an educational website to commemorate the state’s founding 200 years ago.

The Missouri Bicentennial project includes biographies of famous and little-known Missourians who helped shape the state’s history. It also features major events, historical documents and narrative stories. Although Missouri became a state in 1821, researchers included a timeline from 1250 that highlights the earliest known Indigenous people in Missouri.

The educational guide can serve as an encyclopedia to help people understand Missouri’s rich history and culture, said Beth Pike, the Missouri Bicentennial project coordinator.

“When we commemorate events like the bicentennial, we look back at our history and learn from that and find ways that we can have a much better Missouri in the future for all of its citizens,” Pike said.

More than a dozen institutions including the Missouri Humanities Council, state archives, Kansas City Art Institute, St. Louis Public Libraries and the Missouri Department of Education compiled research and archival images and video footage of the state’s history.

Anyone can access the research, but Pike said it will especially be useful for students and teachers, who can use it to complement history book lessons.

“There are many curriculum-based links that will help guide teachers in a classroom discussion,” Pike said. “With the pandemic, there has been a lot of people who've been studying at home, too, and doing home schooling, so it can also help parents.”

The project’s staff members hopes that students will use the website as a starting point into their state’s history and encourage them to produce their own history projects from the data.

“History as part of education also leaves people with an understanding of why it's important to study and preserve past cultures, objects and historical documents, and also why it's important to visit places like historical societies, museums and libraries,” said Danielle Griego, the project’s strategic communications director.

The project’s resources could give Missourians pride in their state’s accomplishments but also help them reflect on some of its darker days, Pike said.

“We can totally celebrate our diversity, and I think it really helps to celebrate that when we learn a little bit about how we came to be,” Pike said. “And by doing so, it really elevates the discussion and really propels us in the future where we're looking for pathways forward and how we as a society can come together and be a better Missouri.”

Follow Andrea on Twitter: @drebjournalist

Andrea covers race, identity & culture at St. Louis Public Radio.

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