The Missouri State Museum launched its commemoration of the Missouri Bicentennial with the official opening of two new exhibits Friday at the Missouri Capitol.
Next year will mark the 200th anniversary of Missouri becoming a state in August 1821.
"Missouri Trailblazers" and "The Missouri Bicentennial Timeline" span the state's prehistory and history. According to museum Curator of Exhibits Sophie Grus, these exhibits "explore ways the state's people and institutions have impacted our culture through major events, leadership, innovation and more."
Grus said the museum had many questions to answer when they first started planning the exhibits, such as what it means to be a trailblazer.
"You will find we didn't place a lot of stipulations on who or what ended up in the exhibits, except for one — they had to have done something that has blazed a trail for us today," Grus said. "That might be creating a new genre of music like Chuck Berry or becoming the first Black woman to win a major civil rights case such as Frankie Freeman or even developing a cure for malaria like John Sappington."
Grus said those who go through the exhibits will find there are some notable people not included in the trailblazers exhibit.
"We wanted the exhibits to focus on the people, places and organizations that you might never have heard of or that you didn't know had a Missouri connection," she said. "Many of the more well-known trailblazers can be found in the Hall of Famous Missourians on the second floor of the Capitol. We hope our trailblazers leave you inspired and maybe with a desire to learn more about their efforts or maybe even with some questions of who and what you are into trailblazing."
Museum Director Tiffany Patterson said these exhibits reflect the diversity of the races, cultures and viewpoints of the state's people.
"French, Spanish and British explorers were not the first people in Missouri," Patterson said. "Our state has supported human habitation for over 10,000 years. We owe much to native peoples who literally blazed trails through the state. We acknowledge the Illini who were some of the first people encountered by European explorers. We acknowledge the Osage who settled, hunted and farmed in Missouri."
Patterson said they also have a caveat that a trailblazer is not necessarily a hero.
"A study of history should not make us feel comfortable, and in fact, it should make us distinctly uncomfortable," Patterson said. "It should cause us to examine our own mindsets and culture. As you go through the exhibits, you will be introduced to people who don't share your point of view. We hope that by sharing these stories you see the state through new eyes and ponder the different perspectives."
The new exhibits are in the museum's History Hall on the first floor of the Capitol in Jefferson City.