Events and Exhibitions | UMSL

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Upcoming Mercantile Library Events of 2021 

St. Louis Mercantile Library 175th Anniversary Society Dealers' Showcase & Silent Auction
November 19, 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM CT
St. Louis Club Ballroom
See more information here.

  Past Mercantile Library Events


John Hoover on A Nation, A City, & Its First Library: Americana as a Way of Life at the St. Louis Mercantile Library for 175 Years
Online Program presented by the Caxton Club and St. Louis Mercantile Library
June 3rd, 6:30 PM CT
If you missed this presentation, you can view it here.

Coffee in the Gallery Curator Talk - New Americana: Personal History

Hybrid Program / Webinar and in-person event
July 29, 10:00 AM
If you missed this presentation, you can view it here.

Coffee in the Gallery Curator Talk -Frederick Oakes Sylvester: An American Artist in Nature
Hybrid Program / Webinar and in-person event
August 26, 10:00 AM CT
If you missed this presentation, you can view it here.


088_gregory_bust_of_kate_chopin-web.jpgCoffee in the Gallery Curator Talk - Celebrating the Women of the Mercantile: Authors, Researchers, Activists & Beyond
Hybrid Program / Webinar and in-person event
September 23, 10:00 AM CT
If you missed this presentation, you can view it here.


Mercantile Library Garage Sale

October 2, 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM CT

ic-233-003.jpgCoffee in the Gallery Curator Talk - Passing Trains That Have No Name: John Barriger's Railroad Scrapbooks

Hybrid Program / Webinar and in-person event
November 4, 10:00 AM CT
Recording coming soon!

level1pratt-americana.jpgA Nation, A City, & Its First Library: Americana as a Way of Life at the St. Louis Mercantile Library for 175 Years

On Levels One and Two, and Atrium Level

Through eight galleries and intertwined chapters, the Library presents its most treasured collections on Native Americans; on the 1840s era of our founding; on first and significant American history printings, especially those printed west of the Mississippi for the first time, such as the first book, newspaper, almanac, sheet music, map, atlas, poetry, novel, play, and many other items printed in St. Louis and elsewhere; on American narratives and activities-- from rail, river and fur trade history, to individual achievements on the national level, to the struggle for freedom-- in our city of St. Louis, and often intersecting with the history and collecting interests of the Mercantile Library; on art of Missouri in the collection; on manuscript collections—in short, an examination of the core collections which have made the Mercantile a well-used and needed national and local historical resource from its beginnings, when it opened its doors to a frontier metropolis on April 9, 1846. The Library celebrates its venerable role as the oldest cultural institution in St. Louis and one of the first cultural institutions chartered by the state of Missouri. View the exhibition catalogue here.

Before planning your visit, please review the UMSL Safety Expectations.

For tour scheduling, please call 314-516-7248 or email

Selections from the St. Louis Mercantile Library Art Museum      

On Level One

The Mercantile Library has collected and exhibited art since its founding in 1846, making its art collection a key element in its cultural and educational mission. In the fall of 2011, the St. Louis Mercantile Library Art Museum was officially established with an advisory board and the mission to tell the story of Missouri and the nation’s heartland region by collecting, exhibiting and providing a venue for Missouri art and artists and encouraging partnerships between scholars, artists, collectors, and the region’s cultural community. This exhibition of the Library’s permanent collection celebrates the Library’s ongoing commitment to Missouri art through works from the 18th through the 21st centuries presented in five thematic sections.
No upcoming exhibitions at this time - please check again later.



Two Great Engravers in Wood & Steel

In the Atrium-Meier Gallery

The Mercantile Library marks this election year we are presenting the famous election series by Missouri’s preeminent 19th century artist, George Caleb Bingham along with works in American narrative art by his contemporary American artist, Winslow Homer. These two artists each explored the intricacies of everyday life, from Bingham’s depictions of the actions of individuals participating in the political process to Homer’s views of work, school, vacation, and life on the home front of the Civil War.  

All Aboard! A Look at the American Railroad Timetable

In the Level 2 Entrance Gallery

This exhibition features a broad range of timetables from the John W. Barriger III National Railroad Library. Although primarily informative, providing detailed schedules by which travelers planned their trips whether local or coast-to-coast, the timetables are also valued for their artistic merit. From charming 19th century scenic vignettes to modern tour de force graphics, the variety of designs is in itself a tour of the history of American art and design. When not tucked neatly in a jacket pocket or tote bag, the timetables unfolded to reveal a route, a region, or even an entire nation on the lucky traveler’s lap.

Indiana & Transportation: The Thomas Hoback Collection

In the Level 1 Bates Gallery, Wing 1

The Barriger Railroad Library collections are rich in visual materials that complement and enhance the archival, manuscript, and publication collections. The Thomas Hoback Collection is one such resource, comprising historic large-format photographs of numerous modes of motorized transportation from the state of Indiana, itself a central states transportation hub.

Mapping the Changing Mississippi

In the Level 1 Bates Gallery, Wing 2 

According to Mark Twain, writing in Eruption, “The Mississippi River will always have its own way; no engineering skill can persuade it to do otherwise.” The challenge of the ever-changing river is legend for river boatmen, and the need to accurately map it continues to today. This series of rare, colorful, century-old maps designed by Army Corps of Engineers cartographer Harold Fisk in 1938, document the changing course of the Father of Waters over time, and are a unique printed view of the Mississippi River unlike any other.

Rare River Panoramas  

In the Level 1 Bates Gallery

The format of the panorama, the 19th century version of moving pictures unrolled from one giant spool to another across torch-lit stages flanked by curtains, was uniquely suited to river scenes, allowing the verdant green shores and the river towns – whether sleepy or burgeoning – to flow past the viewers as if they were actually travelling the river by boat. The panorama format became popular in all sizes, often as fold-outs in travel books. The selection of river panoramas shown here are rarely ever seen treasures from the Herman T. Pott National Inland Waterways Library collection.

 Campaign Curiosities: Election Artifacts from the Shopmaker Collection

In the Shopmaker American Political Collection Gallery

From the earliest elections to the present day, candidates and the public have used a wide array of objects to promote their political point of view. The button, in its many forms, is the most common campaign object, but campaign promoters quickly learned that both necessary and luxury items were effective ways to spread political messages. As a result, candidates and their slogans appeared on everything from cigars to shot glasses, paper fans to porcelain plates, and from coffee mugs to the cappuccino to put in them. The ten cases in this exhibition also illustrate the breadth of the Shopmaker Political Collection that continues to grow through donation and acquisition to document the history of American politics.

Lincoln: The Changing Face of an American President

In the Shopmaker Political Print Gallery

The changes in Lincoln’s appearance that were manifested over the period of his presidency reflect the rigors of the Civil War and the personal tragedies he suffered with the death of his son, Tad. This exhibition traces these changes through a selection of images of Lincoln across several media, including prints, photographs, sculpture, and textiles. The portraits tell the story of Lincoln’s rise from young circuit lawyer to inspiring president to icon of American democracy.

NastArtists of the Mississippi and Other Great American Rivers 

In the Meier Gallery, January 31, 2020- May 15, 2020

This exhibition explored how artists have depicted American inland rivers, especially the Mississippi River, and how their vision of the river has changed through the years. This exhibition complements the Missouri History Museum’s major exhibition Mighty Mississippi, on view November 23, 2019 - June 6, 2021. View the exhibition catalogue here


Mississippi Movies: The Legacy of Henry Lewis Panorama

In the Lobby Gallery, January 31, 2020- May 15, 2020

An exhibition of paintings, drawings, prints and rare books exploring the work of St. Louis’ greatest panorama artist, Henry Lewis (1819-1904) who created a vision of the mid-19th century Mississippi that attracted thousands of immigrants to our shores. Lewis is well-known for his 1854 publication Das Illustrirte Mississippithal (The Valley of the Mississippi Illustrated) that included images of life along the river and the growth of river towns and cities. This exhibition complements the Missouri History Museum’s major exhibition Mighty Mississippi, on view November 23, 2019 - June 6, 2021. 

permanent collectionSaunders Schultz: Visionary Abstractions

In the Meier Gallery, June 23, 2019-January 1, 2020

This exhibition presented examples of Schultz’s drawings, paintings, and sculpture that represent his vision of nature.  The Mercantile Library Art Museum wishes to thank Lisa Schultz and Veronica Slade for their generous donation of Schultz artwork and their support of this exhibition. Learn more about Schultz’s work here

 Headlines of History: Historic Newspapers of St. Louis and the World Through the Centuries at the St. Louis Mercantile Library Association 

On Level One 2017-2019

This was the third in a planned tetralogy of exhibitions building to the 175th anniversary of the St. Louis Mercantile Library, and featured such items as the first known issue of the Missouri Gazette, the oldest newspaper printed west of the Mississippi; and an issue of the Pennsylvania Ledger from July 13, 1776 marking the first printing of the Declaration of Independence in a newspaper. View the complete exhibition catalogue here

Inspired by Love: Artwork by Artistic Couples

In the Meier Gallery February 4, 2019-June 16, 2019

St. Louis was home to many artists who were married to artists. This exhibition features works by Gustav and Hazel Goetsch, Fred and Mildred Carpenter, Philip and Mary Gronemeyer, and more.

 Audubon and Beyond: Collecting Five Centuries of Natural History at the St. Louis Mercantile Library

On Level One November 6, 2015 - June 2, 2017

Audubon and Beyond told the history of the Library’s contributions to early St. Louis’ scientific education through its imaginative and awe- inspiring primary and original collections, some of the most diversified in any early American library outside of the American Museum of Natural History itself. View the exhibition catalogue here.

map imageMapping St. Louis History: An Exhibition of Historic Maps, Rare Books & Images Commemorating the 250th Anniversary of the Founding of St. Louis

On Level One October 19, 2014-June 30, 2015

The exhibition tracked the city’s development and expansion through maps as important documentary objects and things of beauty as well. Contemporaneous prints, paintings and photographs as well as rare printed histories completed the telling of St. Louis' story.

 frontier facesFrontier Faces: Missouri History in Bronze


View the exhibition catalogue here.



course of modernizationThe Course of Modernization in China, Japan and America, 1850-1930: A Study of Three Cities

October 10, 2009-February 28, 2010

View the complete exhibition catalogue here.



lives on the mississippi

Lives on the Mississippi: Literature and Culture along the Great River from the Collections of the St. Louis Mercantile Library Association

February 23-May 1, 2010

View the complete exhibition catalogue here.


NastThe West the Railroads Made


View the complete exhibition catalogue here.



history uncorkedHistory Uncorked: Two Centuries of Missouri Wine


View the complete exhibition catalogue here.




marbled paperA Snail, A Peacock and a Tiger’s Eye: Historical Marbled Papers in the Collections of the St. Louis Mercantile Library


View the complete exhibition catalogue here



adventures and sufferingsAdventures and Sufferings: The American Indian Captivity Narrative Through the Centuries

December 1, 2002- January 15, 2003

View the complete exhibition catalogue here.



art of the frontierSt. Louis and the Art of the Frontier


View the complete exhibition catalogue here.




 century of american railwayA Century of American Railway Bridges and Buildings

September 28- November 3, 1991

View the complete exhibition catalogue here.