Museum of Westward Expansion St Louis

In the basement, beneath the Gateway Arch in downtown St. Louis, Missouri, is the Museum of Westward Expansion. This museum, as large as a football field, is between the legs of the Gateway Arch, located along the Mississippi Riverfront.

The Museum is part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial which includes the Old Courthouse National Historic Site as well as the Gateway Arch. All are a part of the National Park Service. The Museum of Westward Expansion is one place in the area that visitors do not want to miss. It depicts the entire history of the 19th century American West from the Louisiana Purchase to the closing of the frontier in 1890.

Found there are some of the rarest artifacts, going back to the days of Lewis and Clark. The exhibits show the world of the American Indian and the early pioneers who helped shape the history of the American West. Housed there is a permanent exhibit of 33 large,15 foot high photo murals showing significant places and campsites visited by Lewis and Clark when they explored the interior of North America.

There are galleries along the circular pattern of the museum that depict 19th century expansion from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. In the museum one finds an extensive collection of artifacts, a recreated settler structure and a Native American tipi. There are many photos, journals and maps of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Also to be found are mounted animal specimens including buffalo and bear.

Touring the museum gives one an excellent opportunity to learn about this period of American history. It provides an engrossing look at how the West was explored and settled. Through the life-size objects such as the covered wagon and tipi, one can see how the pioneers and Native Americans lived. The way of life of the farmers, buffalo hunters and miners are demonstrated in other exhibits showing the great westward expansion.

Approximately a million people a year visit the Gateway Arch, but many of them overlook the museum. They are waiting to ride the trams up in the Arch and neglect to visit the museum. Or if they visit they are in too much of a hurry to appreciate the exhibits. When one takes the time to explore, they will find short videos and life size models that are quite interesting.

Tours are given by National Park Rangers which include different educational topics with question and answer periods following. Admission to the museum is free, although the ride in the Arch is not. The museum is open seven days a week, except major holidays. Visiting hours are from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The winter hours are from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

When planning a visit to the Museum of Westward Expansion, check for special events or seasonal programs that are offered throughout the year. And remember, the Museum is free.