August 4, 2016
On Friday, July 29, the State Historical Society of Missouri approved a schematic building design by the Kansas City-based architecture firm Gould Evans for a new headquarters in Columbia. Construction of the $35 million facility at Sixth and Elm streets, to be known as the Center for Missouri Studies, is expected to begin in early 2017 and be completed by summer 2019.
Stephen N. Limbaugh Jr., president of the State Historical Society, said the design of the building, which is funded by state construction bonds, represents a fusion of the past, present, and the future.
"The Center for Missouri Studies is a place where we can build on the history of our past while making decisions about the future," Limbaugh said. "I think Gould Evans' vision for the building represents our mission beautifully."
Sean Zaudke, a member of the Gould Evans team working on the project, said the design reinforces the Center for Missouri Studies' role as a place to exchange ideas and to create connections.
"We were inspired by the significance of the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers in the development of Missouri as a state and saw the idea of confluence as a metaphor for the series of the connections that this project represents," Zaudke said. "These connections exist on multiple levels: connecting the present with the past, connecting the campus and the community, connecting the Society's collection with the public, and connecting contemporary issues with their historical threads."
SHSMO executive director Gary Kremer agreed that the themes of the project support the desire to create a strong connection between downtown Columbia and the University of Missouri campus.
"We are perhaps the first building that has really strived to be a link between downtown and campus," Kremer said. "Because this convergence of communities is important to us, the Center for Missouri Studies essentially has two front doors. There will be a south entrance facing Peace Park for the MU community as well as a north entry to downtown off the parking structure."
Due to expense, the inclusion of a parking structure has been an ongoing discussion throughout the planning process. In approving the building design, the executive committee of the SHSMO board of trustees also unanimously voted to support a two-level structure that will accommodate roughly 75 parking spaces.
"Even though the parking structure will require extra fundraising on our part, the committee felt it is truly essential to ensuring access to the paintings, photographs, newspapers, and other collections we preserve," Limbaugh said. "As this is a task we do on behalf of all Missourians, we wanted everyone to have equal access to our collections."
In addition to improved access, Kremer said the most marked difference in the new facility will be an increase in both the size and quality of the art gallery.
"Currently, we can show only one quarter of one percent of the State Historical Society's art collection," Kremer said. "The new gallery will double in size. But perhaps almost as important, it will be space designed to truly showcase our one-of-a-kind pieces, whether that be the iconic works of George Caleb Bingham and Thomas Hart Benton or original Hare and Hare architectural drawings from Kansas City."
The art gallery will be featured prominently on the building's first floor, along with flexible public spaces for hosting a wide range of meetings and events.
"We are excited to bring the community into the Center's spaces with a variety of events from presentations and films to gallery tours and special events like our fall lecture and annual meeting," Kremer said.
The Society's Columbia Research Center, known along with its other research centers across the state as a premier destination for the study of Missouri's past, will occupy the second floor. It will offer increased access to and preservation of manuscripts and newspapers. Administrative offices on the third floor will complete the building.
According to Limbaugh, the Center for Missouri studies will start a new chapter for the State Historical Society of Missouri.
"The State Historical Society has been in the same location for over 100 years. The facilities are woefully inadequate and have been for decades," Limbaugh said. "The Center will be a visionary space where Missourians of all backgrounds can discover our complex cultural roots and come to a deeper understanding of what it means to be a Missourian, whether that is through their own personal research or events."