The Museum of Westward Expansion, Saint Louis, is one of the downtown's most overlooked attractions. Millions of visitors each year pass through the museum, but few take the time to appreciate it or even give a second glance at the exhibits. They are too busy being on their way to do something else. This is a cultural shame because the Museum of Westward Expansion has many interesting historical objects of note on display on a year-round basis.
The Museum of Westward Expansion is most emphatically not simply the loading and unloading zone for the far more famous St. Louis Arch. While the Archway dominates the museum, it is not the entire museum. Being located in the basement of the famous structure does not help the Museum of Westward Expansion stand on its own, but the museum can do it.
Part of what drives the Museum of Westward Expansion are the detailed exhibits of early western exploration. Items from the Lewis and Clark expedition, letters from Thomas Jefferson about the Louisiana Purchase and Native American items are all featured in the collection. Pioneer reenactments and period photographs are also on display with covered wagons, model homes, and shelves of implements used by early settlers to survive.
The museum is open seven days a week, but closed on major holidays. While riding the main attraction, the Arch, can be expensive, admission to the museum itself is free. Children and adults are targeted in the displays, and short videos coupled with life-size models should be enough to keep children entertained. The many historical items provide a unique window on early American life that should not be skipped over or ignored. Seasonal programs also supplement the standing exhibits, so visitors should check for special events or offers throughout the year when planning their visits.
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