The decision by the University of Missouri to sell Mizzou North starts a potential tumble of capital improvement dominoes that will tweak the interest of many on and off campus. Though not on the list of top five immediate priorities, the future of the two former Red Campus museums will be most directly affected.

Serious students of these scribblings — and surely that includes all of you — know I have lobbied hard for relocation of the Museum of Art and Archeology and the Museum of Anthropology next to the new building under construction for the Historical Society of Missouri on the property on Elm Street between Seventh and Eighth streets. I had hoped university officials could make this decision when they moved the two museums out of long standing but inadequate quarters in Swallow Hall and Pickard Hall on Francis Quadrangle, but several intractable obstacles prompted the relocation of the museums instead to empty space at Mizzou North on the Business Loop.

Nobody in the MU hierarchy argues against the propriety of locating the two museums next door to similarly important museum facilities at the Historical Society. One can easily imagine the appeal of all these showings in a common location with common parking not only close to campus but close to downtown Columbia as well.

It’s enough to make heartbeats kick into high gear.

But if you are in a meeting between the MU chancellor and vice chancellor of operations you will regard the old Heinkel Building on the northeast corner of the Historical Society block with trepidation. The building is scheduled sooner or later for demolition, making the block ready for redevelopment with — gasp — the two formerly Red Campus museums, but university planners seized with the logistics of the moment must first wonder where to relocate the 200 or so MU employees currently holding forth in hoary old Heinkel.

I once suggested, not entirely facetiously, they put those back office workers at Mizzou North where their remote location would not be a disadvantage as it is with the museums. However, facing the formidable Heinkel challenge, they resisted my idea and the museums went north, now to be loaded up once again and moved … somewhere. The basic idea still holds. The Heinkel workers could do their duties anywhere within reasonable distance of the campus. The location of the museums is not so fungible.

Pray the wizards of campus planning will contemplate the glories of finally putting the museums together into what we can serendipitously recognize as a “museum district,” a seriously important addition to the cultures and entertainment appeal of both town and gown communities. The key is finding a place for the Heinkel employees. If this is done the problem of museum relocation can be solved at the same time, seemingly keeping the shuffle challenge of the same or lesser order as finding another inferior location for the museums while leaving the challenge of Heinkel relocation unresolved.

Another potential benefit of the museum district might be enhanced parking. The Historical Society building will have modest on-site parking, but the new museums can come with additional parking shared by visitors to all three locations. Oh, glory be!

Now that I have resolved details of the new museum district, how can managers of the territory resist following through? Nobody wants to keep the Heinkel building. Everybody I know loves the idea of the museum district. While university officials are engaged in promising recalculations about campus logistics, doing the Heinkel/museum shuffle strikes me as a capital idea.


I cannot afford the luxury of a closed mind.

—Red Cross founder Clara Barton