STL Initiatives in Education and Film

St. Louis’ Urban Museum Collaborative/UMC (* celebrated another milestone Friday with the completion of touch kits (hands-on treasure chests) and curricula to accompany them for use by classroom teachers.

These “Touch Trunks” containing artifacts relating to individuals, events and subjects from immigration to abolition will go out to schools and serve as extensions of the member museums (Campbell House, The Griot and The Eugene Field House) and hopefully draw teachers and students to the museums themselves for tours of greater collections and expanded lessons.

Barbara Decker-Franklin, who spearheaded the UMC and orchestrated the collaboration of these distinctive St. Louis institutions, hosted the celebration in her Clayton home.

Splendid paintings and scale models of installations that Barbara created for theater productions and art exhibits line the walls and provided a beautiful setting in which to celebrate the UMC’s creative packaging of the “treasures” that will provide area students a tangible sense of 19th century St. Louis history. These are wonderful, child-friendly artifacts meant to be handled, touched and enjoyed and the knowledge they embody – thereby assimilated.

Included in the celebration were the directors of The Griot Museum of Black History, The Eugene Field House Museum, The Campbell House Museum and the educators who wrote the curricula – whose concerted efforts have resulted in this valuable local resource. For additional information and to schedule the use of a Touch Trunk with their students, teachers may contact Barbara Decker ( or one of the following museums: The Eugene Field House Museum (,The Campbell House Museum ( or The Griot Museum of Black History and Culture (

The City Museum was the setting Friday night for a great trivia contest to help fund No Sweat, a documentary aimed at exposing and ending inhumane working conditions in sweatshops world-wide. It’s the most recent project of independent filmmaker, Tom Kavanaugh, Jr., whose Murdoch Street Productions takes its name from the south city street where he grew up. There, with his older brother, John, his sister, Jenny, and other neighborhood kids he took part in summer street shows that benefited local charities.

Tom had completed two full-length screen plays set in Ireland and was working on a comedy set in St. Louis when he joined a medical mission trip to Bangladesh that changed his life. The contrast between that world and the world from which he’d come was staggering. Since then he’s developed a screenplay based on what he experienced in Bangladesh and on lengthy research into sweatshops in other parts of the world including the U.S. Two years ago he began raising money to film and edit No Sweat: The Clothes We Wear and the People Who Make Them.

Parents and grandparents with children in tow were climbing stairways and negotiating slides as players began arriving for No Sweat Trivia. There is no more amazing place in St. Louis to wear out energetic youngsters and wind them down for sleep on a Friday or Saturday night than The City Museum. First-time visitors from around the country and the world are recognizable by the stars in their eyes as they capture images with cell phones while making 360 degree turns. It’s a magical place to have a party or stage a game night.

No Sweat Trivia took place in the Architectural Room on the third floor where Bob Cassilly** and his devoted crew of artisans have transformed a segment of the old International Shoe Shipping Warehouse with elegant stonework salvaged from city ruins.

Billed as The Most Awesome Trivia Game of All Time because the title of every category was preceded by the word Awesome – Music, Films, Art & Architecture, Literature and so on – except for the last category, Ireland, which Kavanaugh said would have been redundant. He promised an a-typical event and it was that!

The median age of the attendees being about thirty-five, the music and TV categories were very contemporary, and teams of 55+ were at a disadvantage. But since identical treats were served to the winning and losing teams of each round and teams with one point got as much applause as teams with perfect scores, great fun was had by all.

Many family and friends were in attendance but players who came simply out of curiosity, to discover what sort of trivia event a Jeopardy champion would organize, found a wide range of categories, spanning the universe and the ages, with far less trivia needed to compete than knowledge.

The question about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle inspired by the artist of “The School of Athens” –  Michaelangelo, Leonardo or Raphael – seemed especially appropiate viewed in the context of Bob Cassilly’s architectural wonder-world. Intellectual sparring was never such fun as in this wildly artistic and playful milieu and the energy level within and without the room didn’t hum it whirred!

The evening ended with the results of a silent auction that included a One Night Stay & Brunch at The Chase, the distribution of a slew of attendance prizes ranging from gift cards to Starbucks to gift certificates to Scape Bistro in Maryland Plaza. After thanking everyone who contributed to his film project by their attendance and with donations of treats or prizes, Kavanaugh briefly described the film he would be shooting in the U.S. and overseas.  A wonderful crew of friends and family assisted in keeping the event running smoothly, along with a great crew from the City Museum who set up & bar-tended the event.

As January draws to a close exciting initiatives are taking placing in the very big, small town that is St. Louis. How I love living and working here!

I began this blog in February of 2010, inspired by and wishing to share my exploration of, the great history and landmarks of St. Louis. My first blog of February 2011 will celebrate the dynamic Landmarks Association of St. Louis.

Photo Credits: The Campbell House Museum Trunk, Education Heading, The Griot Touch Trunk, The Eugene Field House Museum Trunk – the Urban Museum Collaborative website; No Sweat Poster, Children in Blangladesh Schoolroom – Tom Kavanaugh, Jr.; “The School at Athens” by Raphael, in the public domain at; City Museum photos – Maureen O’Connor Kavanaugh, the author of this blog.

*My introductory blog post to St. Louis’ Urban Museum Collaborative is archived in November 2010.

**Much more about Bob Cassilly and The City Museum in a future blog!

About stltourguide

I am a walking tour and narrated coach tour guide in St. Louis, Missouri specializing in the history of the area.
This entry was posted in Commentary and Criticism, No Sweat Trivia Night, St. Louis, The City Museum St. Louis, Urban Museum Collaborative and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to STL Initiatives in Education and Film

  1. Pat Treacy says:

    Hi Maureen — Kudos to Tom for undertaking his documentary. I’m glad to know how he got interested in Bangledesh. I wondered, when I realized he had gone there. If he needs any help along the way, please let me know. I hope 2011 is a great year for both of you.


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