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Museum at the Gateway Arch

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Video Wall
Museum Jefferson

The Museum at the Gateway Arch covers 201 years of history about the westward expansion of the United States with an emphasis on St. Louis’ paramount role in that era. On the mezzanine level, a terrazzo floor shows a map of North America with historic trails from St. Louis and the East, allowing visitors to trace pioneers’ journeys to the West.

Interactive story galleries guide visitors through time from the founding of St. Louis in 1764 to the building of the Gateway Arch, completed in 1965. The new museum describes the westward expansion period of the United States with more perspectives from the cultures involved. Story galleries include: Colonial St. Louis – indigenous and Creole culture before the Louisiana Purchase; Jefferson’s Vision – how St. Louis shaped the west, Manifest Destiny – trails, settlers, and conflicts; The Riverfront Era – steamboats create an American metropolis and its lasting identity; New Frontiers – railroads, industry, and the myth of the West in culture; Building the Gateway Arch – the monument, its story, and symbolism. Visitors can learn how events that took place in the 91 acres of Gateway Arch National Park shaped American history.

The Museum at the Gateway Arch opened on July 3, 2018! Explore featured topics and exhibits in the six story galleries below. 

Colonial St. Louis

Discover the indigenous and Creole culture of St. Louis before the Louisiana Purchase. French merchants Pierre Laclede and Auguste Chouteau selected an ideal site to build a commercial village, which they named St. Louis. Near the confluence of the Missouri and the Mississippi rivers, St. Louis became a hub for trade with regional American Indian tribes. French officials, Spanish administrators, and entrepreneurial citizens arrived and built the village into a significant trading post and the political capital of the region. St. Louis quickly became an affluent and cultured place due to its natural advantages and the people who came here to make their fortunes.

Jefferson’s Vision

St. Louis shaped the West. President Thomas Jefferson knew that the Spanish and British had mapped much of the Pacific Coast and Canada. The Lewis and Clark Expedition was part of Jefferson’s vision for the United States and the ongoing struggle among nations for supremacy in North America. In 1803, Jefferson asked Meriwether Lewis to lead this critical mission. In May 1804, Lewis, Clark, and a crew of about 50 set out from the St. Louis area. They returned to St. Louis in September 1806. More would go west from St. Louis to trade and explore, shaping the future of the continent.

The Riverfront Era

In 1817, the first steamboat to arrive in St. Louis changed the city forever. Steamboats made the Missouri River a gateway to the West. During the 1840s and 1850s, the St. Louis levee bustled with intense daily activity. Hundreds of boats moored there each year. The city made a fortune on fees charged at the port. The Port of St. Louis was important as a Midwest distribution point for goods from other parts of the United States and for international imports, facilitating and fueling westward expansion.

New Frontiers

St. Louis began as a center of trade on waterways, but in the late 1840s it became a manufacturing city. By the 1870s St. Louis ranked with the top cities in the nation as a center of industrial might. Rails sent manufactured goods west, creating an American metropolis.

What was the American West really like during the 19th century? The mythic West has become better known around the world than the actual history and events of the period. Explore how people settled and lived in the West, the myths that became the West’s cultural legacy, and how industrial innovation changed St. Louis and the nation.

Keystone - A replica of the final section placed in the nation’s tallest monument, the keystone provides an accessible experience for everyone. Webcams at the top of the Arch give visitors a live view in the replica’s windows.

Keystone - A replica of the final section placed in the nation’s tallest monument, the keystone provides an accessible experience for everyone. Webcams at the top of the Arch give visitors a live view in the replica’s windows.

Video Wall - In the tram lobby, the video wall is a 100 ft. wide wall of monitors showing videos of the building of the Gateway Arch and scenes of American history and innovation, which are embodied in the Gateway Arch’s symbolism.

Video Wall - In the tram lobby, the video wall is a 100 ft. wide wall of monitors showing videos of the building of the Gateway Arch and scenes of American history and innovation, which are embodied in the Gateway Arch’s symbolism.

Heading West - Visitors entering the museum at the Gateway Arch are greeted by seven monumental video screens that show scenes of American Indian culture, overlanders on historic trails, amazing landscapes, and more.

Heading West - Visitors entering the museum at the Gateway Arch are greeted by seven monumental video screens that show scenes of American Indian culture, overlanders on historic trails, amazing landscapes, and more.