St. Louis is blessed with a formidable collection of museums that elucidate everything from the St. Louis Cardinals to the U.S. economy. Five of them may fly under your radar, but are nevertheless richly deserving of a visit.
The American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog caters to both dog and art lovers with a brilliant collection of paintings, drawings and sculpture depicting man's best friend throughout the ages, including masterpieces by Edwin Landseer, Maud Earl and James Ward. Set in picturesque Queeny Park, the museum is housed in a spacious 14,000 sq. ft. facility which includes the historic Jarville House (1853). Refusing to rest on its laurels, the museum continues to seek and collect work by the finest contemporary artists who focus on dogs.
The Thomas Sappington House (1808), believed to be the oldest brick residence in St. Louis County, offers a fascinating glimpse into early St. Louis and the lives of the influential Sappington family. This National Historic Landmark, built with slave labor, has been meticulously restored and renovated and is part of a larger complex that includes the Library of Americana and The Barn Restaurant.
Washington University's extraordinary art collection (much of it, anyway) is on display at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum on the campus near the intersection of Forsyth and Skinker boulevards. Downstairs galleries are usually devoted to special exhibits while upstairs galleries often house themed shows built from the outstanding permanent collection.
The unthinkable persecution and extermination of Jews by the Nazi regime before and during World War II remains one of the greatest crimes in recorded history, one which must never be forgotten. The Holocaust Museum and Learning Center not only helps preserve that horrific memory through a chronicle of Jewish life in Europe, artifacts of St. Louis survivors, a monthly film series, public lectures, an oral history project and a film library, but seeks to find ways to prevent future atrocities with its interactive exhibit, "Change Begins with Me: Confronting Hate, Discrimination and Ethnic Conflict." Despite its grim subject, this superbly designed museum delivers a surprisingly optimistic message.
If you think modern religious art is confined to greeting cards and stained glass windows, the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art (MOCRA) has a news flash for you: it's not. Housed in a former chapel on the Saint Louis University campus (a Jesuit institution), MOCRA is the world's first museum of interfaith contemporary art, representing a wide spectrum of faith traditions, including the non-traditional, and seeks to be a center for inclusion, healing and reconciliation. The museum's extraordinary history of exhibits (over 20 years) has included work by Georges Rouault, Oskar Fischinger, Andy Warhol, Bernard Maisner, DoDo Jin Ming, Tobi Kahn, Patrick Graham, Miao Xiaochun and Rebecca Niederlander. Always a pleasant surprise, MOCRA's expertly curated shows never fail to inspire meditation on the sublime.
Who understands the economy? One could argue that the Federal Reserve does and point to its Inside the Economy Museum as proof. The free, award-winning museum in downtown's Federal Reserve immerses visitors in a one-of-a-kind experience that explains the economy and everyone's role in it in a fun and interactive way through nearly 100 displays, games, sculptures and videos. Way more entertaining than anybody has a right to expect.