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Community members gathered in Nifong Park on Saturday for an afternoon of barbecue and music celebrating the Walters-Boone County Historical Museum’s 25th Anniversary.
Free tours of the Village at Boone Junction and the Maplewood House, two of the Boone County Historical Society’s structural attractions, were offered throughout the day. Columbia Mayor Bob McDavid, Boone County Commissioner Dan Atwill and Missouri State Archivist John Dougan made appearances as guest speakers.
Since the Boone County Historical Society established Walters-Boone County in 1990, it has offered both a history museum and an art collection. The museum is the only historic cultural art venue that represents the entire county, though there are smaller history museums in nearby towns.
“We fit a really important niche in that we are here to preserve an important, pioneering county’s history that is nearly 200 years old,” said Chris Campbell, director of Boone County Historical Society. “The museum acts as an important repository for history.”
According to the BCHS website, creation of the museum’s 5,500-square-foot exhibit space and the 10,000-square-foot vaults and storage areas would have not been possible without donations from businesses and individuals in mid-Missouri.
The exhibit halls are open year-round and offer rotating displays lasting four to twelve months. Currently, the public can visit exhibits such as “150 Years of Boone County Education,” which shows Boone County schools and classrooms expanding over the past 150 years. The exhibit displays photos of one-room schoolhouses, as well as artifacts from sports teams, bands and other school activities from Hallsville, Sturgeon, Columbia, Centralia and Ashland.
Gifts have driven the museum’s development.
“Two of the more notable achievements over 25 years have been the gift of about 500,000 historic photography studio negatives that represent Columbia’s history,” Campbell said. “A second great achievement would be the gift from the Tracy Montminy estate, who left us funds to not only build an art gallery, but also left us her life’s work of art,”
The photography came from photo studios spanning back to the early 20th century, exposing a Columbia that many people have never seen before. The museum has continued to expand its art collection from the Tracy Montminy donation, resulting in the art collection that is housed there today.
Although much has happened for the museum in a quarter-century, Campbell is setting goals for years to come.
“In terms of the tangible and physical, we are already at capacity in terms of our collection storage and existing vault space,” he said. “So something we have to look at in the five to seven years is physical expansion in the form of an additional wing so we can continue to grow.”
Physical expansion aside, Campbell says he hopes the museum can also grow in terms of importance in the community and beyond.
“The staff and board of directors would very much like to see a growth into a very well-recognized and professional museum,” he said. “We want to be more than a typical county museum, but something that is recognized in the region as being a well-respected institution among other museums and art galleries.”
Photos taken by Emily Shepherd.