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Memorial Union Memorial Union: The Transcendent Tower

Signs, Symbols, and Seals: The Sculpture of Memorial Tower

Prominent architecture like the Memorial Union communicates many cultural meanings to a wide audience. Commissioned as a war memorial and "home for Missouri spirit," the Memorial Tower evokes powerful images and recollections of our collective past. When the Tower was dedicated in 1926, the Mizzou community was less than a decade removed from the horror of the First World War and World War II loomed ahead as a terrible continuation of loss. The Tower symbols served to evoke powerful images for viewers who had experienced war both personally and communally.

Alex Barker, director of the Museum of Art and Archaeology, recalls seeing a memorial arch in Szeged, Hungary similar to the Memorial Union. The memorial arch in Szeged has two monumental soldiers standing at attention, one on each side of the arch, rifles in parade rest position. The one on the right (right, top) is a fresh-faced young man; the one on the left (right, bottom) is a corpse. It is, he noted, a powerful cultural symbol.

Yet, the impact of cultural symbols can fade as collective experiences change. As American cultural historian Daniel Boorstin observed, "We are flooded with disposable memoranda from us to ourselves, but we are tragically inept at receiving messages from our ancestors." Our historical awareness may have dimmed over time in the blinding light of contemporary culture.

This Signs, Symbols, and Seals: The Sculpture of Memorial Tower section of the exhibition brings new light to our past. It provides a detailed look at the physical forms and historic meanings of Memorial Union symbols. Perhaps it will encourage us to bring new meanings to the Memorial Union's "messages from our ancestors."

illustration 1

Soldiers and Sailors

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Adorned Archways

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Contorted Creatures

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Crowning Canopies

illustration 3

Pace and Progress

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The Great Seal of Missouri

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The Pride of Mizzou

illustration 12

The U. S. Coat of Arms

illustration 5

Archaic Arches

illustration 13

The University of Missouri Seal

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Embellished Emblems

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The Great Towers

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The Soaring Skyline

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A Mizzou Legend

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Set in Stone





Memorial Union Exhibition

Exhibition Home

History of Memorial Tower

Making the Memorial

In Memoriam

Signs, Symbols, and Seals: The Sculpture of Memorial Tower

Figured in Stone: The Arcade Sculptures of Memorial Tower

Tradition: Tipping the Cap

Szeged, Hungary
Szeged Arch, right

Szeged Arch, left

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