MU faculty, associates push for clear plan to return museum to downtown

Jul 18, 2013

Credit Janet Saidi / KBIA News

MU faculty, Columbia residents and museum associates continue to express their concern about MU’s lack of timeline for returning the Museum of Art and Archaeology back to the downtown area. The museum, currently housed in Pickard Hall, is moving to Mizzou North, or the old Ellis Fischel Cancer Center.

The move is part of the Renew Mizzou renovation project, which will also displace the Museum of Anthropology at Swallow Hall. 

Pickard Hall must be empty by the end of this year, as it begins a new round of radiation testing. Experiments by chemistry professors in the early 1900s left traces of radioactive materials in the building. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission wants the new testing to determine the extent of the radiation leftovers, so it can eventually take Pickard Hall off the list of sites to monitor.

Little detail is known about Pickard's radiation, and the uncertainty is the crux that's preventing MU from having a clear plan to return the Museum of Art and Archaeology downtown. MU Vice Chancellor of Administrative Services Jackie Jones said at the forum she truly doesn’t know how long Pickard's testing will take.

Lois Huneycutt is a history professor at MU. She said having the museum easily accessible is crucial to MU’s teaching mission. Mizzou North, which will house the displaced museum, is about two miles from downtown.

“I really understand with the situation in Pickard Hall, the way it is, that we can’t get straight answers,” Huneycutt said. “But I really want to hear from the administration a commitment to bring these things back downtown someway, somehow.”

Huneycutt said she didn't hear that commitment come from MU administration at the forum. 

Some of the forum’s audience members offered their own ideas on how to keep the museum downtown. A few of the ideas were to lease a downtown building, or open a smaller, satellite museum on campus, or join forces with the State Historical Society. MU officials at the forum say they are looking into these options, but can’t commit to any of them at this point.

Huneycutt says she doesn’t think the administration is exploring the options thoroughly yet.  

“I’m not seeing a whole lot of excitement in doing that, at least from the administrative level,” she said. “I’d like to see that happen.”

Patricia Cowden is a museum associate and a docent at the Museum of Art and Archaeology. She says another option could be a capital campaign effort.

“We can have a lot of people in town join with the university and maybe we can all have some kind of campaign to make some money and bring a new museum right close for everyone,” Cowden said. 

MU officials at the forum say they are considering transportation plans between Mizzou North and the downtown campus for students and staff.