New History Museum on the Square Opens August 8th Bringing Springfield’s Past to Life In Unique and Engaging Ways

SPRINGFIELD, Mo.—When the doors of the new History Museum on the Square open to the public on August 8, visitors will be transported into an expansive space that holds within the rich tapestry of southwest Missouri’s history—as told through interactive exhibits, period and contemporary video and photography, and a treasure trove of artifacts.

The opening is the culmination of years of planning and construction involving museum leadership and staff, regional historians, and curators and archivists, as well as local and national companies responsible for design, construction, technology and state-of-the-art visual display. The opening, August 8-11, coincides with the Route 66 Festival dedicated to the “Mother Road,” which the museum honors with a permanent display featuring a 66-foot timeline tracing the origins and expansion of the route.

“We’re thrilled to bring the city of Springfield this magnificent, permanent space that tells the story of our founders and the struggles, and triumphs, faced by the people who have made our city what it is today,” said Mary McQueary, president of the museum’s board of directors. “In addition, our Voices of History gallery will feature temporary and traveling exhibits, as well as special events for the city and the museum. We have Smithsonian-approved climate control and security systems that will allow us to blend our local history with a variety of special exhibits from around the country.”

Located within the 104-year old former Barth’s department-store building and the one adjacent, the museum has more than 18,000-square feet of space, giving it room for continued expansion. There are three floors with eight dedicated spaces including a Welcome Center, six permanent galleries and the traveling exhibit space. The renovated basement houses staff offices, enlarged workrooms and space for volunteers and interns.

The History Museum on the Square’s six permanent galleries include

  • Native Crossroads at the Spring
  • Trains, Trolleys and Transportation: Children’s Education Area
  • Pioneers and Founders at the Crossroads
  • The Civil War in Springfield
  • Wild Bill Hickok and the American West; and
  • Birthplace of Route 66

Highlights of the museum include a transportation gallery with a time machine built into a replica of a trolley car, an immersive reenactment chamber of the Hickok-Tutt confrontation, interactive touchscreen maps of Springfield comparing vintage photos to contemporary depictions, and a 66-foot long timeline and map of the Iconic Mother Road. Perhaps one of the most dramatic features is a one-third scale Frisco locomotive engine that literally emerges through the upper mezzanine wall.

“Our wait is over,” said John Sellars, executive director. “Thousands of hours have gone into the design and curation of this space. With decades of historical artifacts and stories from which to choose, telling the story of southwest Missouri, and Springfield in particular, has been a labor of love. We’re thankful to the leadership of our board and capital campaign for bringing this dream to reality. We look forward to generation upon generation continuing to grow this space and weaving the fabric of those stories that make Springfield the heart of the Ozarks.”