A living scrapbook: the St. Louis City Museum


Zaynah Shah

Upon entry, families purchase their tickets at the three tiled windows.

Renna Popli, Zaynah Shah, and Albertine Combs

Celebrating its 25th year of business, the St. Louis City Museum is a creative space that allows children and adults alike to build long-lasting memories. The attraction features more than 12 indoor and outdoor slides, historic art exhibitions, and four floors of interactive activities, experiences and opportunities. 

A bit on Bob:

Bob Cassilly, the artist responsible for the creation and inspiration of the building, collected materials alongside 20 other artists to create a museum in place of the of the closed International Shoe Company.

“Bob was envious of music. When you listen to music, it is in and around you, and you feel it. At the City Museum, you’re in the exhibits, you get to climb in it and you’re a part of it,” said Rick Erwin, Creative Director and former Museum Director


From the beginning, City Museum was built on the principles of creativity and fun, ensuring a family friendly experience for all ages.

“My first experience at the museum was my first date with my wife. She brought me to the city here to the museum years before I worked here. We built Toddler Town for my kids. We used to drop bowling balls down the slides, that’s how we tested them,” said Erwin.

While a typical museum–such as Pleasanton’s Museum on Main–focuses on specific local historical events, the City Museum offers a variety of learning opportunities within the ten-floor building. 

“What draws us to keep coming to the city museum is the amount of unique interactive experiences that are available for our child to play at, because now we are confident that he will not get lost. The first time that I came, my palms were immediately very sweaty because our child disappeared, but now it is much more enjoyable because we know he’s not going to get too far,” said Matt Sartorius, parent from Indianapolis, Indiana.

Collective creativity:

With open floors, concrete walls don’t separate the exhibits. They spill into each other, with curators bringing their projects to life on a single floor workspace.

“A lot of the projects in the exhibit are passion projects. They’re personal projects that people just come here to do. You get to see a lot of the artist’s personalities and a lot of compromise in their work because they’re not just working individually,” said Ashley Turigliatto, Director of Marketing and Sales.

More than just a building:

Within the four-stories are aquarium caves winding through two floors, a mirror hallway, and antique art displays sourced from all over the world. Even beyond the building are outdoor playgrounds suitable for the warmer months. 

“We’re in a building that started in the early 1900s and we’re not about new things. We’re about old things, about reusing things, about stuff that will fit into what we’re doing,” said Tim Cavanaugh, Director of Food and Beverage.

The quirky nature of the building mirrors the spirit of St. Louis.

“The museum lives within itself. The museum isn’t here without us. It’s plain. It gets loud, and it continues to get loud. It lives within itself all the time, and we are just the participants. That’s the way Bob always saw it,” said Erwin. 

From walls made from coke bottles, everything in the museum’s halls are repurposed, reused, and another man’s trash turned into treasure. Every day brings surprises to visitors and museum directors alike.

“Even today, I walked past something and thought ‘has that always been here?’ There’s always so much to see. I’m here 60 to 70 hours a week and I still see new things almost every week where I wonder ‘how did that get there?’” said Cavanaugh.

Honoring the tapestry of history, the St. Louis City Museum is a patchwork of 1900s culture and its progression to the modern day.

“The museum is a global treasure that took all of these discarded items that people didn’t want or necessarily need and are showcased here in a way that they’re all special and useful. The museum is a lot more than just this building: it’s a way of thinking,” said Turigliatto.

Click below for an exclusive interview with City Museum Creative Director Rick Erwin.