For the first several months of 2024, MindsEye’s director of audio description, Magan Harms, worked many long hours preparing descriptions for more than 200 photos for virtual walking tours in the newly updated 1904 World’s Fair exhibit at the Missouri History Museum. Recently, she finally visited the exhibit. Below is her experience.

People are surprised to learn that I waited a month after the exhibit opened to check out the finished product. I guess part of me just needed some distance to separate myself from the project so I could take a step back and enjoy it, instead of just wanting to make corrections or changes to my work. Last week, before a performance of Meet Me in St. Louis by Ignite Theater Company downstairs in the auditorium, I took a little time to finally see the exhibit in its entirety, not just a file folder of hundreds of black and white photos.

First, I want to point out that although I did write a lot of descriptions, the work that MindsEye did for this exhibit is just a teeny, tiny part of the whole. Actually, the work we did was just some of the descriptions available, which is only a small part of the overall accessibility. Since it seems like it took me a zillion hours, it must have taken the MHS team one hundred zillion!

The newly remodeled 1904 World’s Fair exhibit is located in the same galleries as the old one, near the information desk on the 1st Floor to the right of the enormous Thomas Jefferson statue if you enter from the Lindell side. Before you enter the gallery, you might want to stop by the information desk and ask for the large print or Braille labels of the exhibit to carry with you while you peruse the gallery.

Accessibility Map

Inside the gallery, you’ll find a large accessibility map.  Above the map are five boxes that serve as the map’s key with information written in large print and overlayed with clear acrylic which includes Braille and tactile elements.

Tactile elements sign
Image: Tactile elements sign
Large print sign
Image: Large print available sign

The first box includes the audio description symbol and information about how to use QR codes with tactile corners throughout the gallery to listen to AD. The second box has a textured hand to help guide you to the many tactile elements in the exhibit. The middle box has two hands and is the ASL interpretation symbol. The fourth box has a large magnifying glass and instructs you to find the large print and Braille labels at the information desk. The last box has a blue box with the letters O C to direct you to videos with open captioning.

Beneath the information boxes, which are all Brailled and textured, is a map of the gallery. Each of the symbols from the boxes above is shown on the map to indicate where you can find AD, tactiles, and the other access features. This map also includes Braille and raised lines.

Please touch sign
Image: Please Touch! sign
Saint Louis Art Museum touchable model
Image: Saint Louis Art Museum Scale Model

As you move about the exhibit, you will find more of these symbols. Some say “Please touch” and indicate a tactile element. This one has the tactile hand and says, “This is a touchable model of the Palace of Fine Arts, known today as the Saint Louis Art Museum.” Just to the left of the sign is the model. Make sure you run your fingers up the stairs, then the columns, up to the six sculptures high atop the Art Museum. Each represents a great era in art history.

The enormous scale model of the World's Fair
Image: The scale model in the center of the gallery

In the center of the first gallery is a massive scale model of the 1904 World’s Fair grounds. Although you can’t touch the model, there are four touch screen stations with AD, two on each end, which contain virtual tours with audio description.

The walking tours touch screen
Image: The home screen of the virtual walking tours touch screen.

All four of the stations are the same and play the content. There are eight available tours, including Food, Art and Architecture, Meet the People, Fairgrounds Today, Science and Technology, The Fair Firsthand, African American Experience, and Philippine Village.

Nav pad for the touch screen
Image: Nav Pad
Instructions for the nav pad
Image: Nav Pad Instructions

Before you grumble about the touchscreen, wait! To the right of the screen is a navigation pad, a sound stick, and Braille instructions. Just pick up the sound stick and press a button and the audio description navigation instructions will begin to play.

Magan listening to the sound stick
Image: Magan listens to her own voice through the sound stick.

If you’re really interested, you could stand there for HOURS listening to my voice as I read the on-screen text and describe every photo for every tour. Don’t worry, you don’t need to listen all at once! This is a permanent exhibit, so you can come back and listen to me anytime!

Magan in front of postcard background
Image: Magan in front of the World’s Fair Backdrop
Magan with Festival Hall painting
Image: Magan in front of Festival Hall

After you have checked out all the exhibits, head back out to the grand hall. There are currently large backdrops set up for you to take pictures in front of to commemorate your visit. I chose to take a selfie in front of one that looks like an old-timey sepia-toned postcard from the World’s Fair and another in front of an illustration of Festival Hall.

I hope you take some time to head over to the Missouri History Museum and check out the new 1904 World’s Fair exhibit. Remember, it’s always free to visit! It’s easily accessible from the Forest Park-DeBaliviere Metrolink station. You can also take the number 90 Hampton MetroBus to the Forest Park Transit Center. And of course, there is that elusive Loop Trolley! Just remember to check their social media as it runs sporadically.

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