Skip to main content
Skip to navigation

July 25, 2013 Volume 34, No. 34

Faculty and community residents weigh in on relocation of MU museums

Alternate text

THE MOVE Arts and Science Dean Mike O’Brien, director of the anthropology museum, is enthusiastic about moving two museums to Mizzou North during the Renew Mizzou project. Photo by Rob Hill.


Public forum addresses questions about Renew Mizzou project

public forum on the relocation of two MU museums was held July 17 in Jesse Wrench Auditorium in Memorial Union. A four-member MU panel answered questions and concerns about the moves, voiced mostly by faculty and community advocates.

Due to the Renew Mizzou buildings project, which will shutter Pickard, Jesse and Swallow halls for more than a year, the Museum of Art and Archaeology in Pickard Hall and the Museum of Anthropology in Swallow Hall need new homes. Relocation logistics and the timeline of their return to the halls were the focus of the 90-minute discussion organized by Faculty Council and moderated by Chair Harry Tyrer. About 150 people attended the forum.

The panelists were Deputy Provost Ken Dean; Jackie Jones, vice chancellor of administrative services; Michael O’Brien, dean of the College of Arts and Science and director of the anthropology museum; and Alex Barker, director of the art and archaeology museum.

Panelists explained the necessity of renovations to Jesse and Swallow and of removing radioactivity in Pickard due to basement experiments 100 years ago. The $22.85 million project will eliminate the need for more than $14.3 million in deferred maintenance cost associated with these buildings.

O’Brien said relocating the museums downtown was examined, but finding appropriate locations at an affordable price was a challenge. He supported moving the museums to Mizzou North, former site of the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center on Business Loop 70 West. 

Though initially the museums would be limited to the square footage they have occupied on campus, they will probably be expanded during their stay at Mizzou North, O’Brien said. This means more of the museum collections could be publicly displayed. 

“Once open, you will see real advantages” to having the museums at Mizzou North, O’Brien said. “It will be a whole lot better out there.”

Museum Associates members, who financially support some of the acquisitions of the Museum of Art and Archaeology, asked panelists if there was a capital planning and development campaign to relocate the museums closer to campus. Member David Bedan asked for something “concrete.” O’Brien said organizers were “ramping up development” and held out the possibility of satellite sites downtown.

Several art history professors said they use the museums for teaching purposes. Relocation of the collections two miles north would hinder using them. Peter Stiepleman, an assistant superintendent at Columbia Public Schools, said field trips from Lee Elementary School, which is within walking distance from the museums, might end if collections are moved to Mizzou North.

Jones said creation of a shuttle service between campus and Mizzou North was being explored. “There will be some type of shuttle,” she said.

Moving the museums will begin this fall, Barker said. Pickard is scheduled to close by year’s end, and Jesse and Swallow halls will close between March and July 2014. Along with the museums, faculty and staff in those buildings will be relocated. Swallow and Jesse are slated to reopen in summer 2015. Pickard’s reopening is indefinite because it’s dependent on radioactive testing to meet Nuclear Regulatory Commission codes.

Panelists did not offer a reopening date for the museums in Pickard and Swallow.

Following the public forum, Craig Roberts, Faculty Council chair beginning today, said administrators have done well handling the issues surrounding Renew Mizzou. “They do seem to want the best for the museums,” he said. “However, the forum did not address the main concern expressed by Faculty Council — a lack of shared governance in the decision process” of relocating the museums and employees. 

Council will begin exploring the shared governance issue surrounding Renew Mizzou in August, Roberts said.