By: Paul Langdon
Coloring STL, the newest exhibit at the Missouri History Museum, provides visitors with an unprecedented opportunity to explore the beautiful architecture of St. Louis while also tapping into their creativity. It does this by combining elements of a traditional museum exhibition and a coloring book, to get people exploring the subject matter up close and personal.
“You can see more than 50 dry erase colorable illustrations of local St. Louis structures,” explains Public Historian Andrew Wanko. “We’ve got everything from the nationally known landmarks like Union Station and Fox Theatre, down to the very homes St. Louisans live in. We want visitors to come fill these with the wildest variety of colors their minds can dream up! And we invite them to come bring their family and friends and scribble on the walls of the History Museum. How often do you get to say that you’ve scribbled on the walls at a history museum?”
Of course, translating all of these historical structures into 2D colorable images was no easy feat. The museum partnered with St. Louis Artist Rori, who had previously worked with them on the Beyond the Ballot: St. Louis and Suffrage exhibit. She is a self-described “visual storyteller” and that moniker shines through in this collection of illustrations that tell the story of the city’s rich architectural history.
“She spent 14 months creating the more than 50 colorable structures you see on the walls,” says Wanko. And the timeframe wasn’t the only challenge. Many of these buildings no longer exist, so she “had to use historic photos to recreate very precise details.”
But those details are a very clear, and make this exhibit all the more engaging, in Wanko’s opinion. “One of the fun parts of getting up close to these buildings is you start to notice details you’ve never seen before. Even I, as a historian of St. Louis architecture, am noticing new details on the structures I had never noticed before.”
But the interactive aspect of coloring on the walls isn’t all this exhibit has to offer. In the center of the space is a collection of artifacts further illustrating St. Louis’ rich architectural history. Everything from pieces of riverboats and shopping malls to the iconic bricks the city is known for are on display. And if you look closely enough, you might even spot some of these artifacts in the colorable illustrations.
Coloring STL continues at the Missouri History Museum through May 5, 2024. To learn more about this and other exhibits please visit www.mohistory.org.