The St. Joseph Museum

American Indian Basket Collection - St. Joseph Museum

From Civil War artifacts to intricate Native American pottery and rare dolls, the St. Joseph Museum has a story to share with everyone.

The Native American history and cultural history of the unique northwest Missouri region is a highly-visited and fascinating part of the four museums in the St. Joseph Museums, Inc. system. It began in 1927 as the Children’s Museums of St. Joseph, and the exhibits help tell the story of the natural, cultural and Native American influences that continue to influence our world today.

An extensive collection of Native American items from ten cultural regions of North America includes clothing, accessories, fans, pottery, pipes, weapons, kachinas, jewelry and archaeological items. A doll collection that includes child-size dolls from the 1860s and a wall of shadowboxes with miniature dollhouse settings delight both children and adults. Dolls made of corn husks, porcelain, wood, and plastic showcase children’s dolls over the centuries.

The largest portion of the Native American collection was collected by St. Joseph resident Harry L. George.  To learn more about Mr. George and his collection, click here: Harry L. George Collection

Temporary Exhibits at the St. Joseph Museum

Coming April 2017:  WWI Saint Joseph:  Reflections on Community and Conflict

In a war that was meant to end all wars, millions were killed and empires destroyed.   Like everywhere else in the world, World War I fundamentally altered St. Joseph.  “WWI St. Joseph:  Reflections on Community and Conflict” will open on April 6, 2017, at the 100th anniversary of the United States entering the war and will encourage visitors to explore the lessons learned from World War I. The exhibit will focus on the experience of St. Joseph during the war years, drawing direct parallels to issues that face our community today and commemorating the lives of those who lived through the era.

The War required sacrifice from all citizens and those who remained at home were not immune. As men left home to fight abroad, their families faced real hardship – frequently the salaries they earned as soldiers were far less than what they earned in civilian life (in order to ameliorate this and to encourage enlistment, the Tootle-Lemon Bank in St. Joseph announced that it would cover the wage gap for any of its employees who enlisted).

Learning to make ends meet with fewer resources was a particular challenge for households. As the war continued, rationing measures were implemented. The city official in charge of enforcing the rationing – and convincing citizens that “meatless Tuesday” and “wheatless Thursday” were their duties as members of society – was Harry L. George (most famous as the man who is responsible for the world-class collection of Native American items held by the St. Joseph Museums).

The St. Joseph Museums, Inc., is working with the National Military Heritage and the National World War I Museum in Kansas City to produce “WWI St. Joseph: Reflections on Community and Conflict.” The exhibit will bring to light new research on how the war impacted St. Joseph, and apply the lessons learned to our community 100 years later.