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Mizzou Wire

Treasure trove

Mizzou means museums

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  • Story by Nancy Moen
  • Published: June 29, 2010
gold jewelry

"Sabik," by Akelo/Andrea Cagnetti, is part of the exhibition "Golden Treasures by Akelo" now on display at the MU Museum of Art and Archaeology. This 2009 piece is made of gold, topazes, semiprecious stones, sapphires and a ruby.

It’s hot. What should we do today?

Consider it a perfect time to sneak in some learning with your summer fun. Check out these campus venues and visuals that combine science, art, antiquities and cool information.

A golden opportunity

About 25,000 school children and lifelong learners visit the Museum of Art and Archaeology each year. You should, too.

What’s new at the museum? The exhibit Golden Treasures by Akelo shows a contemporary artist’s skill in crafting gold jewelry reminiscent of ancient pieces. Akelo, an Italian goldsmith, researched and recovered goldsmithing techniques dating from 2500 B.C. Visitors may use the provided magnifying glasses to inspect unbelievably detailed craftsmanship.

Then, for the young at heart, a 30-minute art film is not to be missed. The Way Things Go, by Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss, runs in a continuous loop on a flat-screen TV. The film is a chain-reaction sequence of kinetic fun. Have a seat and watch as sparks shoot, fire flares, water trickles, tires roll, liquids ooze, balloons deflate, pendulums swing and other action occurs.

With 14,000 objects from Paleolithic tools to more recent works by Picasso, and from classical antiquity through masterpieces of the Renaissance, the museum is the third-largest visual arts museum in Missouri. It showcases world treasures and masterworks of art and archaeology in its permanent collections and changing exhibitions. Collections from seven millennia and six continents give visitors a sense of history and geography.

For groups of 10 or more, phone ahead for a tour: 573-882-9498. The museum gift shop sells (hard-to-resist) educational art toys, jewelry, games and collectibles.

Museum of Art and Archaeology, and gift shop

  • Location: Pickard Hall, Francis Quadrangle, off Ninth Street
  • Open: Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday/Sunday, noon to 4 p.m.
  • Phone: 573-882-3591
  • Admission: free

Are those stars in your eyes?

Enjoy a starry, starry night at MU’s Laws Observatory, where visitors become amateur astronomers.

Weather permitting, you can view the mysteries of the night sky from the observatory in the Physics Building. On a clear night, the moons of Jupiter, the rings of Saturn, globular clusters of stars and other wonders are visible through the eyepiece of the telescope and on a viewing screen. Members of the Department of Physics and Astronomy or of the Central Missouri Astronomical Association will guide you through the experience.

Visitors to the Physics Building also may check MU’s link to the Hubble telescope and watch discoveries as they happen.

Laws Observatory

  • Location: Physics Building on College Avenue, fifth floor
  • Open: Wednesdays, 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Phone: 573-882-3335
  • Admission: free

All things scaly, slimy and snappy


Visitors to the Stewart Hall Reptiles and Amphibians Display can see copperheads as well as other Missouri creatures. ©iStock Photo

Snakes alive! Kids, families and other brave souls are invited to view a campus exhibit of snakes and amphibians in Stewart Hall. As an educational or chilling experience (depending on your perspective), the exhibit identifies the reptiles and amphibians likely to be encountered in Missouri.

Visitors will see about 20 species of native snakes, including all of Missouri’s venomous reptiles — cottonmouths, copperheads and three varieties of rattlesnakes. Non-venomous species ready to greet the public are milk snakes (red and brown), rat snakes, bull snakes, garter snakes, king snakes, hog nose snakes and green snakes. 

Two alligator snapping turtles, examples of North America’s largest fresh-water turtles, are among the 10 turtle species ready for viewing.

Reptiles and Amphibians Display

Rockin’ in geology

Can you name and describe Missouri’s official *state rock? How about the official **state fossil? You will, when you visit the Geological Sciences Building on Francis Quadrangle.

Collecting rocks, minerals and fossils is fun for all ages. To see what MU’s geologists have discovered through the years, head to the lower and first floors, where you’ll find glass showcases filled with dinosaur footprints, mastodon and mammoth teeth, insects in amber, freshwater-fish fossils, petrified wood, quartz, crystals, coral, jade, geodes, cave stalagmites and a cast of the largest clam you’ve ever seen.

Don’t overlook the fossil of a Jurassic Age marine reptile in the east staircase to the second floor. Visit the displays on your own, or phone ahead for a tour with a graduate student.

* Mozarkite is Missouri’s state rock.
** Crinoid is Missouri’s state fossil.

Geology Rocks, Minerals, Fossils Collection

  • Location: Geological Sciences Building, Francis Quadrangle, off Elm Street
  • Showcase locations: first floor and lower level
  • Open: Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Phone: 573-882-6785
  • Admission: free

40 years of faculty art

A retrospective exhibition of paintings, prints and drawings in the George Caleb Bingham Gallery spans the 40-year careers of two faculty members.

Part three of the Lifetime Achievement Showcase highlights the creative works of Professors Emeriti Jerry Berneche and Brooke Cameron. The exhibit ends Aug. 26.  

Berneche taught drawing and painting courses; Cameron taught printmaking, drawing and graduate courses. Both have enjoyed thriving careers as visual artists and have exhibited their work in venues nationally and internationally.

Throughout the year, the Bingham Gallery rotates the artwork of students, faculty, retired faculty and alumni of the Department of Art, as well as of visiting artists. Check the website for more information.

George Caleb Bingham Gallery

  • Location: A125 Fine Arts Building, Hitt and University streets
  • Open: Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Phone: 573-882-3555
  • Admission: free

Missouri's most famous artists

Stop by the Main Gallery of the State Historical Society of Missouri to view an intersection of art by two Missouri icons, Mark Twain and Thomas Hart Benton. The two kindred spirits used literature and art to reflect the lives of ordinary Missourians. Featured in Twain and Benton: Pictures, Prose and Song are Benton’s original illustrations for Twain’s classic books The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Life on the Mississippi. The final day for the display is Aug. 20.

The Society holds the largest collection of Benton works in the world and one of the largest collections of Bingham paintings. Among the Bingham treasures on permanent display is Martial Law, or Order No. 11, Missouri’s most famous historical painting. Bingham painted the Civil War scene on a tablecloth. Look closely, and you’ll see the weave. And don’t miss Watching the Cargo, one of Bingham’s famous river paintings.

An added bonus: the placement of mannequins modeling 19th-century fashions lends a feeling that the clothes just emerged from the paintings. Students from MU’s Department of Textile and Apparel Management prepared the display.  

Before you leave, wander through the Society’s Corridor Gallery to view landscapes from the Pacific Railway survey from the 1850s. The lithographs show the unspoiled land being considered as a possible railroad route to the Pacific Ocean.

Arty souvenirs are for sale in the Society’s office.

State Historical Society of Missouri

  • Location: Ellis Library on Lowry Mall, off Hitt Street
  • Open: Tuesday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.
  • Phone: 573-882-7083 or 800-747–6366
  • Admission: free

Walk this way

Recent news reports confirm that a leather shoe found in Armenia is 5,500 years old. Well, that’s old, but the world’s oldest shoes — ancient brown sandals and slip-ons dating back 8,000 years — are in MU’s Museum of Anthropology

Missouri’s native people crafted the prehistoric footwear around 6000 B.C. of a yucca-like plant known as rattlesnake master, which gives the term “durable” a whole new perspective. Discovery of the shoes thousands of years later is particularly remarkable because fiber normally decomposes quickly. When archaeologists excavated Arnold Research Cave in Callaway County beginning in the 1950s, they found 35 shoes, including a late-period leather moccasin.

Although there were no matched pairs, some of the shoes fit either foot. Several show signs of wear, such as holes in the heels or toes. Some have been repaired. One has scorch marks. Wads of grass appear to be have been used as padding in some and may be the antecedents of insoles.

The Museum of Anthropology showcases archaeological and ethnographic artifacts that reflect Native American cultures from Missouri and across North America through 11,200 years. It is the only anthropology museum in the state of Missouri and one of a few in the Midwest. Its archaeological collections are recognized nationally as among the most important holdings of prehistoric material in the nation.

Of particular interest to children: a 19th-century Missouri cabin furnished with household items and toys from the era and a mock-up of an excavation site.

The museum gift shop offers collectibles, educational toys, books and fair-trade items. 

Museum of Anthropology and gift shop

  • 100 Swallow Hall, Francis Quadrangle, off Ninth Street
  • Open: Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (group tours available)
  • Phone: 573-882-3573
  • Admission: free

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Last updated: Feb. 22, 2012