ST. LOUIS — The Missouri History Museum’s effort to collect artifacts from the unrest in Ferguson is missing one big contributor: City Hall.
The museum in Forest Park has spent two years collecting boarded up windows, protester gas masks, empty tear gas grenades and other artifacts from the days that followed the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown by a white Ferguson police officer.
But the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/2d0XN4H ) reports that Ferguson city officials have declined to work with the museum. City spokesman Jeff Small says the city hasn’t been formally asked to participate, and besides, it has nothing to offer.
“At no point did the city ever maintain any collection of items,” Small said.
Activists and museum researchers were surprised.
“We would need to have conversations with them to determine exactly what they have,” museum director of library and collections Chris Gordon said. “They might not understand some of this material may be of interest to us.”
The museum is also recording oral histories of the events in Ferguson from people who lived through them, with about 10 interviews so far.
Emily Davis, a Ferguson activist who contributed artwork, thinks the city simply doesn’t want to remember the events from Aug. 9, 2014, when Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, was shot, to November 2014, when a grand jury declined to indict the officer Darren Wilson, who resigned that month.
“They want to pretend this didn’t happen and we were given a bad rap,” Davis said. “I don’t think they’re particularly willing to acknowledge it as a historical moment.”
Small said city officials are supportive of efforts to preserve the history for research and education. But he said there are concerns about how the events might be portrayed and said some groups might want to exploit events for their own agenda.
Gordon said the museum and the city were progressing on a formal collecting agreement at one point, but those talks were tabled in the spring of 2015 following a Department of Justice report excoriating city management, and an exodus of the city’s top leadership.
“At that point a whole new group of people came on and it’s been our goal to reach out and re-establish a new relationship with the new people,” Gordon said.
Some of the Ferguson artifacts will be displayed in a yearlong Missouri History Museum exhibition on local civil rights history that opens in March.
Gordon said the museum has received a small number of items from counter-demonstrators who supported law enforcement during the Ferguson protests.
“We want to show this in a big picture perspective and not just showcase one side,” Gordon said. “Anything we can gather to get a well-rounded picture of the events that occurred.”
Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com