Springfield's History Museum

The History Museum on the Square houses various Southwest Missouri historical exhibts. The museum opened on August 8th, 2019.

From stories of a cobra invasion in Springfield, to the unusual way the city got its name, the newly renovated History Museum on Park Central Square aims to shed new light on the history of Springfield.

“This museum is really what museums are moving toward,’’ Krista Adams, director of development said. “Museums used to be places where you would go look at artifacts and read about them, and that’s where the experience ended. This is more of an interactive experience.” 

The museum reopened its doors this month, offering six permanent galleries and other interactive exhibits dedicated to immersing visitors into the regional history of Springfield. 

Upon entering the 18,000 square foot space, museum goers can step to their left to explore an interactive table map of Springfield. The device allows them to touch a location on the screen and view a vintage photo of the location next to a present day photo. The table is meant to juxtapose the region’s past with its present. 

Since 1976, the museum has operated in a number of different locations around Springfield, but Adams said its new location on the Square makes the perfect home because many of the stories featured in the museum happened outside its front doors.

For example, visitors observing the Wild Bill Hickok and the American West gallery — which features a 360 degree immersion chamber depicting the shootout between Hickok and Davis Tutt — can look outside the second floor window at the exact location the fatal confrontation occurred over 150 years ago. 

“My favorite exhibit?” volunteer Don Perriguey said. “Probably Route 66. And the old Jukebox. It plays a lot of good music. It still works!”

The Route 66 room features neon lights and a 66-foot long timeline and map, along with a vintage car replica, which serves as a seat for visitors to view a presentation of the Mother Road’s history.

Another exhibit focuses on Springfield transportation and parks and features a time traveling trolley. The trolley is meant to transport visitors into the past, according to Adams. The interior screens play over 40 different movies telling stories of prominent Springfieldians and their role in the city’s history.

“For all of our movies we worked with local actors and local talent,” Adams said. “So as you go through the museum, if you’re familiar with Springfield, you’ll recognize a lot of the voices and the actors you see.”

Local sports broadcaster Ned Reynolds, along with Joy Robertson and Tom Trtan of KOLR10, are among some of the voices featured in the videos throughout the museum. One video features archaeologists from Missouri State University. 

“Our focus is on education, and our focus is on the interactive experience,” Adams said.

Adams says the museum’s interactive nature makes it suitable for families with children of all ages, and visitors who experience the museum more than once will always see something different each time they come back.