I remember taking a trip to the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial as a child. The Arch towered over me, making me feel miniscule, and the idea of getting into the egg-shaped car and going up to the top made my stomach turn. I don’t think I even recognized the fact there was a museum under this massive structure.
As an adult, I relate the St. Louis Arch more to the rivalry between my beloved Royals and their Cardinals than I do a national treasure. However, that all changed for me when the location became the 60th National Park. This is what fueled my desire to return.
I‘d previously heard whispers of the wonderful advances to the museum, and the way in which it so vividly displayed the journey of westward expansion. But what I walked into on September 23rd went far beyond any of my previous expectations. The museum provided the same feeling I remember getting as a child looking at the Arch. The pure size of the area was impressive, and the layout makes you feel as though you could turn any corner and take a new journey through history. The exhibits range from interactive paintings, to first person stories, to replicas of the early city, and so much more.
In one area, you can see Manifest Destiny in a painting’s elements by clicking on a screen. In another, you can watch the 1849 fire ravage the city. Still, farther along, you can see the process that went into building the Arch itself. Walking from area to area of the museum literally allows you to be immersed into that era.
The best part about all of this is, IT’S FREE! There is no charge to enter the museum area of Gateway Arch National Park. And you can also visit the Old Courthouse where the Dred Scott Case took place. If you’re more of an adventure seeker, it will only cost you $13 (for an adult) to go up into the Arch, though I don’t recommend it on a windy day. While I was hesitant to return to the Arch, I am so thankful I did so. It provided me with so much rich history and innovative ideas that will stick with me moving forward.
Museum Science and Management Student Emily Caselman