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History database launches to celebrate Missouri’s 200th year

Courtesy: Ozark Silver Swallows

A group of Missouri nonprofits and government agencies has created an educational website to commemorate the state’s founding 200 years ago.

The Missouri Bicentennial project includes biographies of famous and little-known Missourians who helped shape the state’s history. It also features major events, historical documents and narrative stories. Although Missouri became a state in 1821, researchers included a timeline from 1250 that highlights the earliest known Indigenous people in Missouri.

The educational guide can serve as an encyclopedia to help people understand Missouri’s rich history and culture, said Beth Pike, the Missouri Bicentennial project coordinator.

“When we commemorate events like the bicentennial, we look back at our history and learn from that and find ways that we can have a much better Missouri in the future for all of its citizens,” Pike said.

More than a dozen institutions including the Missouri Humanities Council, state archives, Kansas City Art Institute, St. Louis Public Libraries and the Missouri Department of Education compiled research and archival images and video footage of the state’s history.

Anyone can access the research, but Pike said it will especially be useful for students and teachers, who can use it to complement history book lessons.

“There are many curriculum-based links that will help guide teachers in a classroom discussion,” Pike said. “With the pandemic, there has been a lot of people who've been studying at home, too, and doing home schooling, so it can also help parents.”

The project’s staff members hopes that students will use the website as a starting point into their state’s history and encourage them to produce their own history projects from the data.

“History as part of education also leaves people with an understanding of why it's important to study and preserve past cultures, objects and historical documents, and also why it's important to visit places like historical societies, museums and libraries,” said Danielle Griego, the project’s strategic communications director.

The project’s resources could give Missourians pride in their state’s accomplishments but also help them reflect on some of its darker days, Pike said.

“We can totally celebrate our diversity, and I think it really helps to celebrate that when we learn a little bit about how we came to be,” Pike said. “And by doing so, it really elevates the discussion and really propels us in the future where we're looking for pathways forward and how we as a society can come together and be a better Missouri.”

Follow Andrea on Twitter: @drebjournalist

Copyright 2021 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Andrea Henderson joined St. Louis Public Radio in March 2019, where she covers race, identity and culture as part of the public radio collaborative Sharing America. Andrea comes to St. Louis Public Radio from NPR, where she reported for the race and culture podcast Code Switch and produced pieces for All Things Considered. Andrea’s passion for storytelling began at a weekly newspaper in her hometown of Houston, Texas, where she covered a wide variety of stories including hurricanes, transportation and Barack Obama’s 2009 Presidential Inauguration. Her art appreciation allowed her to cover arts and culture for the Houston African-American business publication, Empower Magazine. She also covered the arts for Syracuse’s Post-Standard and The Post and Courier in Charleston, South Carolina.