State Historical Society reveals design for new headquarters

COLUMBIA — The century-old location of the State Historical Society of Missouri in Ellis Library will be history by 2019.

A new headquarters at Sixth and Elm streets will be known as the Center for Missouri Studies, offering a link between downtown and campus and a place for Missourians to discover the state's history.

"This is an educational program that is expanding the way Missouri history is explored," Mary Ellen Lohmann, the society's strategic communications coordinator, said.

On Friday, the historical society's board approved a design by Gould Evans, a Kansas City-based architecture firm, for the three-story building. The center is expected to be completed by summer 2019. In March, the Missouri Development Finance Board issued $35 million in construction bonds for the project.

Limited space at Ellis Library means only a small fraction of the State Historical Society's art collection can be put on display. A gallery on the first floor of the new building will accommodate twice the amount of art, such as the works of George Caleb Bingham and Thomas Hart Benton, with state-of-the-art climate control.

"It's going to be a great expansion of the master works we have, but we're also hoping to do more rotating exhibits," Lohmann said. Missouri's bicentennial is approaching, she said, so most exhibits after the opening will focus on the evolution of the state.

There will also be a multi-purpose room with a nearly 200-person capacity, which will host lectures, meetings and other special events.

A research center on the second floor will allow greater public access to manuscripts and newspapers and will serve as a reading room, Lohmann said. A separate conservatory lab, similar to a science lab, will repair and stabilize old documents. Administrative offices will occupy the third floor.

The building will have two entrances: one facing south toward Peace Park, and another facing north toward downtown. The convergence of the campus and downtown communities is important to the project, Gary Kremer, the society's executive director, said in a news release.

A two-level parking structure, to be paid for through private fundraising, will provide about 75 spaces and stand on the north side of the building near Locust Street.

The new structure will go up in the current parking lot of MU's Heinkel Building, and those spaces will need to be relocated.

Stephen Limbaugh Jr., president of the State Historical Society, said the architectural design depicts an integration of the past, present and future, according to the release.

"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.

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