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Lewis & Clark: News & Events: Press Releases Lewis & Clark: The National Bicentennial Exhibition Exhibition Locations

News & Events:

Press Releases

Lewis & Clark: The National Bicentennial Exhibition
January 14, 2004-September 6, 2004

Portrait of Meriwether Lewis to Be Displayed at White House Preview

Meriwether Lewis ST. LOUIS, July 3, 2002 - In 1804, Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark led the U. S. Army "Corps of Discovery" from St. Louis up the Missouri River into the vast, newly acquired Louisiana Territory. Following instructions from President Thomas Jefferson, their aim was to become the first Americans to traverse North America to the Pacific via an imagined water route. Along the way, they were to map the continent's interior, collect plant, mineral, and animal specimens for science, and, most significantly, develop relationships with diverse tribes of American Indians.

In 2004, the Missouri Historical Society will mark the bicentennial of Lewis and Clark's transcontinental journey of exploration with the opening of Lewis & Clark: The National Bicentennial Exhibition. The exceptional new exhibition, organized by the Missouri Historical Society, will open at the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park, St. Louis, Missouri in January 14, 2004 and will be on view through September 6, 2004. The exhibition will then launch a national tour. Lewis & Clark: The National Bicentennial Exhibition is presented in St. Louis through the generous support of Emerson. Additional support provided by the U.S. Congress through the National Park Service, the State of Missouri through the Missouri Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Commission, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

To announce the national bicentennial exhibition, President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush have invited the Missouri Historical Society to display a portrait of Meriwether Lewis at the White House. The chalk and charcoal portrait, done by Charles Balthazar Julien Fevret de Saint-Mémin (1770-1852), shows the profile of a 29 year-old Lewis wearing a high-collared coat, notched collar and white shirt. At the time Lewis sat for this portrait, he was serving as President Thomas Jefferson's secretary. According to Lewis family tradition, Lewis sat for the portrait in 1803 and sent it to his mother prior to setting off on the transcontinental expedition. The Lewis family donated the portrait to the Missouri Historical Society in 1936. The recently conserved portrait will be unveiled on July 3, 2002. The date marks the 200th anniversary of the day President Thomas Jefferson received official word that the Louisiana Purchase treaty had been signed. The portrait of Lewis will remain at the White House until it returns to the Missouri Historical Society in preparation for the opening of Lewis & Clark: The National Bicentennial Exhibition.

The Exhibition
Lewis & Clark: The National Bicentennial Exhibition will feature hundreds of superb artifacts, including rare and priceless objects and documents that have not been seen in one place since the Corp of Discovery returned to St. Louis in 1806. More than 600 artifacts will illustrate cultural encounters along the journey of Lewis and Clark. Period objects and art will represent the equipment the explorers utilized, the land they trekked, and the Native American tribes they encountered. The core of the exhibition will be formed by artifacts, artwork, and documents entrusted to the Missouri Historical Society by the Clark and Lewis families.

The Missouri Historical Society's collections will be augmented by objects from other institutions with significant Lewis and Clark and ethnographic materials, including the American Philosophical Society, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, the Smithsonian Institution, the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscripts Library, the Library of Congress, the National Archives, and the Oregon Historical Society.

Lewis & Clark: The National Bicentennial Exhibition visitors will have a once in a lifetime opportunity to view national treasures such as the letter of credit from Thomas Jefferson to Meriwether Lewis (dated 4 July 1803). Other artifacts on display will include plant specimens, the only surviving American Indian artifacts presented to Lewis and Clark, the only known surviving zoological specimen, a woodpecker, and the captains' personal items, such as scientific equipment and Clark's handwritten, illustrated, elkskin-bound field journal, which provides a glimpse into a lost America few of us can imagine.

Overall, Lewis & Clark: The National Bicentennial Exhibition follows the journey of the Corps of Discovery through the human geography of western North America. Theirs was an exploration of new cultural and mental landscapes as well as new lands. Beyond St. Louis, they were in an Indian world of age-old trade networks, achievements in art and oral literature, and an intricately exploited environment. As men of the Jeffersonian Enlightenment, the captains saw the West through preconceptions formed by their European cultural heritage. The native societies they met imagined America very differently. The exhibition will compare the assumptions of Lewis and Clark and the Indian peoples they were among on such topics as politics and diplomacy, gender, geography, animals, landscape, clothing, language, trade and property, healing and health, and plants. These cultural contrasts reveal how the expedition overcame barriers to communication-or failed to overcome them.

Lewis & Clark: The National Bicentennial Exhibition will be the culmination of more than five years of intensive research and development by the Missouri Historical Society. Under the leadership of Missouri Historical Society president Robert R. Archibald, the exhibition planning is being guided by an advisory board of scholars and Native American representatives, including James P. Ronda, Jeanne Eder, Gary Moulton, Richard White, and George Horse Capture. In addition, the Missouri Historical Society has sought out Native American perspectives by traveling to visit representatives of each of the major tribes covered in the exhibition.

The Missouri Historical Society
The Missouri Historical Society has been active in the St. Louis community since 1866. Founding members organized the historical society "for the purpose of saving from oblivion the early history of the city and state." Today, the Missouri Historical Society operates a major urban history center, including the Missouri History Museum and the Library and Research Center. Both facilities are free and open to the public. In 2000, an expanded Missouri History Museum, featuring the Emerson Center, opened to the public. The Emerson Center is home to Seeking St. Louis—three state-of-the-art, interactive galleries examining the people, events and issues that have shaped this community in the past and which continue to impact the region's future. The Emerson Center also includes educational classrooms, an auditorium, museum shop, award-winning Meriwether's restaurant, and a special exhibition gallery which will be the site of Lewis & Clark: The National Bicentennial Exhibition.

The Missouri Historical Society, supported by private contributions and memberships, foundation and grant support, earned revenue and by property tax support, has extensive artifact, photograph and print collections documenting the history of the region. The Missouri Historical Society Press publishes 3 to 4 books per year on topics of regional historical interest. In 2004, the Missouri Historical Society Press will collaborate with the Smithsonian Institution Press on the Lewis & Clark: The National Bicentennial Exhibition catalog.

Dr. Robert R. Archibald
As President of the Missouri Historical Society, Dr. Robert R. Archibald has transformed a formerly traditional historical organization into a national model recognized at the White House for regularly facilitating community discussions of significant issues. In October 1994, at a White House reception, the Missouri History Museum received the National Award for Museum Service. In bestowing the honor, Diane Frankel, director of the Institute of Museum Services called the Missouri Historical Society "a model for creating programs that use history as context for today's concerns."

On February 11, 2002 Missouri Governor Bob Holden appointed Archibald as co-chairman of the Missouri Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Commission. Created by executive order in 1998, the Missouri Lewis & Clark Bicentennial Commission's mission is to "rekindle the spirit of discovery, achievement, and wonder fostered by the original expedition." Fourteen appointed commissioners are working to coordinate efforts by Missouri state agencies and private organizations to create a historically informative and exciting observation of the bicentennial of the Lewis & Clark expedition. Activities will take place during the commemoration years 2004 to 2006.

Opening January 2004, Lewis & Clark: The National Bicentennial Exhibition will be on display at the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park at Lindell and DeBaliviere in St. Louis, Missouri, daily from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. and Tuesdays until 8 p.m. From Memorial Day 2004 through Labor Day 2004, the Lewis & Clark: The National Bicentennial Exhibition will offer special summer hours: Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. and Friday through Sunday 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Admission is $12 for adults; $10 for seniors; $6 for children (ages 6-18). Children under five are free.

Based on membership level, Missouri Historical Society members receive free tickets to the exhibition in St. Louis. Also, Missouri Historical Society members will have the opportunity to enjoy exclusive previews, special curators' lectures, children's programming, book signings, and bus tours. The Missouri Historical Society Membership Department can be reached at or by calling 314/454-3101.

For more information on Lewis & Clark: The National Bicentennial Exhibition visit the exhibition's web site at

For more information, visit or call 314/746-4599.

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