Emerson Announces Multi-Year $5 Million Pledge To African-American History Endowment With Missouri Historical Society

History Museum’s $10 Million Endowment Establishes Comprehensive Collecting Initiative; Community Programming and Scholarships; Caps Long Community Effort

OCTOBER 12, 2015 – Emerson today announced that it will contribute $5 million over the next seven years to the Missouri Historical Society, which operates the Missouri History Museum and Library and Research Center. Emerson’s gift is part of a $10 million African American History Endowment campaign to enable the Historical Society’s sustained, long-term commitment to collections, museum exhibitions, and community programs focused on African American history of this region for future generations.

The endowment caps a multi-year effort by community leaders and Emerson to create a unique and meaningful platform to tell the important story of African Americans’ role in past and continued growth of St. Louis and the region. More than just looking to the past, the endowment is meant to provide a forum and format for ongoing community education and dialogue to drive greater understanding of the impact our diversity has on our future.

“African-American history is tightly and deeply interwoven into every part of this community, and recent events have made clear the need to bring greater understanding to what we have done together and what we can yet accomplish together,” said Dr. Frances Levine, president of the History Museum. “The endowment will further incorporate African American history into the overall narrative of all museum exhibitions and activities.”

Emerson’s announcement of commitment to the African American History Endowment comes during its celebration of its 125th anniversary in business, part of a range of giving initiatives it unveiled to employees, and will support the region by providing the Missouri Historical Society with the resources to: 

  • Expand on the Missouri Historical Society’s commitment to crossing racial divides through providing historical perspectives to timely issues.
  • Strengthen and grow the process of collecting and interpreting the region’s African American history.
  • Continue to serve as a safe space that encourages community dialogue by integrating the history of underrepresented people in its exhibitions and programs.
  • Utilize the museum’s extensive, diverse collections of artifacts, documents, film, and oral histories in innovative ways to engage teachers, students, and community stakeholders.
  • Encourage lifelong educational exploration by providing opportunities to study the historical experiences of all people who comprise our region. The endowment secures the museum’s ability to expand its community and educational programs; strategically collect artifacts and oral histories; and develop exhibitions to educate, empower, and enlighten visitors. Further, it supports the development of future museum professionals who will have the potential to change the history museum field.

“At its heart, the African American History Endowment uses history to create greater cultural understanding and collaborative solutions to issues in our region and beyond,” said David N. Farr, Emerson chairman and CEO. “There has long been a desire to celebrate our community’s African-American heritage in a special way. Although earlier research and outreach believed possible a separate, stand-alone cultural center in St. Louis, we think today’s endowment concept offers much more.”

Farr praised the early, consistent and persistent efforts of the late Jo Ann Harmon Arnold, former Emerson executive, and James Buford, long time and now-retired leader of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, in assuring that discussions ultimately would lead to a plan of action.

Together, with Jim Buford’s vision and involvement, he, the Urban League, the Historical Society, and many other people and organizations in the community will share in providing planning, and managing programming and content. This endowment campaign and venue was selected and approved given the Missouri Historical Society’s ability to draw diverse and widespread audiences and its professional ability and experience to succeed over the long term.

“While this was not our original plan, it is a viable and exciting path to bring the dream to life. Despite best intentions and efforts, it has been clear for some time now that it would not be possible to raise the sizeable funding necessary to support building and sustaining operations of a stand-alone center as first hoped,” Buford said. “All parties to this effort have continued to hold a strong commitment from the start. By coming together as partners and with a sense of community, we believe have developed a win-win solution.”

The Missouri Historical Society will be seeking community and corporate donations for the remainder of the endowment. In the first year of the endowment, the Museum also will apply for additional gifts and grants from other sources to supplement the costs associated with the new collecting initiative and increased programming. In addition to securing grant funding, the Museum will include African American history in some of its current offerings such as its Leisure Series (senior programming) and documentary screenings.

One of the most important elements and early elements of work under the endowment will be the Collecting Initiative -- an ongoing commitment to collecting material related to the experiences of African Americans who call the metropolitan St. Louis region home and have shaped its character. The historic significance of recent events in our region have prompted the Missouri Historical Society to intensify its collecting efforts so that critical artifacts and collections are not lost to commercial collectors and other museums.

Through the years, the Missouri Historical Society has become the guardian of several prominent African American collections, including those of Civil War soldier Elijah Madison, dancer and activist Katherine Dunham, attorney and civic leader Homer G. Phillips, and educator Herman Dreer. However, there are significant gaps among the collections.

Levine noted that it is important to also document the every day lives of African Americans in St. Louis. A collecting initiative would partner with individuals as well as St. Louis African American institutions—churches, fraternal organizations, social organizations and families—to identify unrecognized treasures and digitize the materials so they can be shared with the public and preserved for future generations.

“The Missouri Historical Society will build from our relationship with the African American community, demystifying the process of how we care for and manage collections, and demonstrating that we value and honor the donations being entrusted to us,” Dr. Levine said. Future efforts under the endowment will include: 

  • ​An Oral History Fellows program 
  • Exhibit development Programming, that will include a civic rights lecture and symposium and other community programs 
  • Next generation digital innovation 
  • A museum studies scholarship program 
  • A K-12 education program

More information about the endowment, the collecting initiative and other programs can be found by contacting objects@mohistory.org.

About Emerson
Emerson (NYSE: EMR), based in St. Louis, Missouri (USA), is a global leader in bringing technology and engineering together to provide innovative solutions for customers in industrial, commercial, and consumer markets around the world. The company is comprised of five business segments: Process Management, Industrial Automation, Network Power, Climate Technologies, and Commercial & Residential Solutions. Sales in fiscal 2014 were $24.5 billion. For more information, visit Emerson.com​.

About The Missouri Historical Society
The Missouri Historical Society, which operates the Missouri History Museum and the Library and Research Center, has been active in the St. Louis community since 1866. Founding members established the organization “for the purpose of saving from oblivion the early history of the city and state.” Today, the Missouri Historical Society serves as the confluence of historical perspectives and contemporary issues. Due to its innovative approach to public service, the Missouri History Museum was the first recipient of the Institute of Museum and Library Services National Award for Museum Services in 1994. The Missouri History Museum offers programs and outreach services, including traveling exhibitions; tours; theatrical and musical presentations; programs for school classes and youth groups; family festivals; special events; workshops; and lectures. The Missouri Historical Society also operates the Missouri History Museum Library and Research Center, a non-lending historical research library. The Missouri History Museum is funded by the St. Louis City and County taxpayers through the Metropolitan Zoological Park and Museum District and by private donations. The Museum is open seven days a week. The Library and Research Center is open Tuesdays through Saturdays. General admission to both facilities is always free. 

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