Arthur Mehrhoff

Research Interests

My passion for heritage preservation stems from very deep roots. My father used to drive our family around old Saint Louis neighborhoods in our 1955 Plymouth to view the historic architecture. In fact, some of my earliest childhood memories involve visits to venerable city museums like the Saint Louis Art Museum and the Missouri Historical Society. I try not to live in the past, but I know that the past lives in me…

Over the years those deep roots have branched out in several directions. My doctoral research in American Studies at Saint Louis University emphasized my long-standing interest in material culture studies, especially the phenomenon of place. I drafted a successful National Register nomination for midtown Saint Louis in 1976, conducted extensive research in the early Eighties on historic downtown buildings while coordinating the Downtown Element of the City of Saint Louis Comprehensive Plan, and also conducted extensive archival research at the Archives of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial for my doctoral dissertation and subsequent book The Gateway Arch: Fact & Symbol (Popular Press, 1992). My research into how we shape our physical communities culminated in my book Community Design: A Team Approach to Dynamic Community Systems (Sage Publications, 1999), and I also wrote a chapter on the buildings of Howard County for The Buildings of Missouri, (forthcoming) edited by distinguished MU Emeritus Professor Osmund Overby. Finally, I recently completed an anthology of essays about Missouri’s special places entitled Coming Home Again: A Missouri Journal.

From those early roots I also have continued to explore the powerful impacts of new information technologies upon higher education. Much of that research interest stems from the pioneering writings of Father Walter J. Ong, S.J., at Saint Louis University, whose research greatly influenced media scholar Marshall McLuhan, among others. Building upon my research interest in the effects of new information technologies generated by Father Ong, I served as a Research Fellow in 1998 for the Northwest Area Foundation (Saint Paul, Minnesota) to help the Foundation better use information technology in their vast ten-state service region. One particular challenge I perceive for the Museum of Art & Archaeology and for museums in general is how to be both a Muse and amusing, engaging young Digital Natives who have grown up in a brave new world of instant information (if not insight) access. How can we show the presence and importance of The Past? I think the Future depends upon it…

Mehrhoff under Memorial Union Arch

My family, St. Louis, Missouri

The Gateway Arch jacket

Community Design

New Book, Coming Home Again