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The Missouri Historical Society, founded in 1866, presents permanent and special exhibits and educational programs at the History Museum and maintains the city's most comprehensive collection of local history resources at its Library and Research Center. The Society, whose leadership in community-based programming is nationally recognized, opened a new facility in spring 2000, greatly expanding its display and educational spaces.
The St. Louis Art Museum, located in a restored Beaux Arts structure built for the 1904 Worlds Fair, was the first municipally-funded art museum in the nation. Its extensive permanent collection is particularly strong in pre-Columbian, Asian and German Expressionist art. SLAM has the most active public education program of any American art museum, featuring lectures, classes, workshops, film series, and other special programs for both adults and children.
The St. Louis Science Center traces its history to the founding of the Academy of Science of St. Louis in 1856. It merged with the city-owned McDonnell Planetarium in 1983 and opened a new "hands on" facility with over 600 exhibits in 1992. In the summer of 2001, a major renovation of the Planetarium was completed, offering visitors an innovative space station experience and new star shows produced by the most sophisticated projector technology. It ranks among the top ten science centers in the country in attendance and conducts extensive educational programs with schools and public.
The two other institutions included in the tax district, the Missouri Botanical Garden and the St. Louis Zoo, also have nineteenth-century beginnings as showplaces to display the world's exotic flora and fauna. While they are ranked among the area's top tourist attractions, their primary missions have evolved from exhibition to conservation and research. The Garden is internationally recognized for its commitment to preservation of tropical rainforests and the Zoo is a leader in programs of breeding endangered species.
The St. Louis Mercantile Library, founded as a subscription library in 1846, is now located on the University of Missouri - St. Louis campus, where its 250,000 books, archives on local and national history, and rich art collection are now accessible to students in the university's Thomas Jefferson Library.
The area is home to dozens of other museums and historical sites. The St. Louis Gateway Arch, riverfront symbol of the city as "gateway to the west" is part of a National Park Service site which includes the Museum of Westward Expansion and the Old Courthouse, where the Dred Scott case was argued. Historians will also want to visit Jefferson Barracks, once home to Robert E. Lee, U.S. Grant, and William Sherman; Black World History Wax Museum; the First Missouri State Capitol in nearby St. Charles; and the Faust Historical Village. Two premier archaeological parks are in the area: Cahokia Mounds World Heritage Site and Mastodon State Historic Site.
The new City Museum is hard to categorize: its imaginative displays delight visitors of all ages.
St. Louis has a wealth of historic house museums: the St. Louis homes of President Ulysses S. Grant, poet Eugene Field, composer Scott Joplin and pioneer explorer Daniel Boone are all open to the public. The names Campbell, Sappington, Bissell, Hanley, Chatillon, DeMenil, Hawken, Cupples, and Meyers may be unknown outside St. Louis, but the homes they built in the nineteenth century offer rich insight into the furnishings and lifestyle of the past.The Museum of Transportation allows you to travel back through 150 years of transportation history in just a few hours.