Since first opening its doors back in 1976, The History Museum on the Square (417-831-1976; 154 Park Central Square) has had a few homes around Springfield, including a space in the Old City Hall building. The space had room for several small galleries, and dreams of a larger regional museum were only for the far-off future. Back in 2000, Mary McQueary and John Sellars were volunteers doing what they could to help the museum’s mission. They fell in love with the tales of historic Springfield and did their part to make each story known and appreciated by every guest who walked through the door. Their vision for and dedication to the museum, along with their desire to preserve the history of the region, drove them to help build a regional, historical masterpiece.
Their time spent as volunteers moved them up the ranks at the museum: Sellars became executive director in 2005, and McQueary became president of the board in 2007. The two helped execute a $12 million project including renovating two historic 100-year-old buildings and adding interactive elements for the eight brand-new exhibits.
Ten years after the project officially began, the goal is nearly realized. The reimagined museum is no longer a thing of wishful thinking but a nearly completed solid historical masterpiece sitting on Park Central Square, just a few doors down from its current location at the historic Fox Theatre. While the opening date hasn’t been announced, the new building encompasses a welcome center, six permanent galleries and one state-of-the-art gallery that can accommodate traveling exhibits and special events.
Native Crossroads at the Spring
Since the original museum first opened, staff has been acquiring tons of artifacts. That’s good news for the museum’s collection but bad news for the current temporary space. The current museum only had capacity for one rotating exhibit, which currently showcases a Route 66 display. All other artifacts have had to be stored. With the opening of the new location, the organization can haul things out of storage and feature more content, including a collection dedicated to Native Americans.
“There will be a lot of information about the different tribes that passed through here and how they impacted this area,” Sellars says. “It will be about their lifestyle and how they lived. Most of them were forcibly relocated, and it tells a lot about how that interaction and dislocation from their homeland got them here. It also talks about the Trail of Tears and how it came through here on the way to Oklahoma.”
The exhibit includes artifacts from local tribes, a video and animal tracks embedded in the floor. The museum is also a stop on the National Park Service’s Trail of Tears Passport Program.