Saint Louis Art Museum
Cass Gilbert's Palace of Fine Arts

Cass Gilbert’s Palace of Fine Arts: A Visual History of the Saint Louis Art Museum Building was generously supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), under the provisions of the Library and Technology Act as administered by the Missouri State Library. This project was a collaborative effort between the Information Technology and Richardson Memorial Library staffs of the Saint Louis Art Museum.

The goal of this project was to create a central repository for archival images of the Museum’s physical structure and to provide free online access of this historic resource for scholars, students, and others. In addition, a digital archive preserves the original photographs, slides, and transparencies from repeated use while still providing unfettered access to them. Cass Gilbert’s Palace of Fine Arts brings together for the first time scores of images of the Museum, many not previously inventoried or documented, from various sources including archives, the Photography Manager files, the archival slide collection, and Building Operations at the Museum.

The Museum building, begun in 1902 and completed in 1903, was initially designed by Cass Gilbert as the main building of the Palace of Fine Arts for the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition, also known as the World’s Fair. The building, which has been the home of the Saint Louis Art Museum since 1909, has undergone many changes during subsequent years. This digital resource provides an overview of the planning, construction, and utilization of the building as a museum; as well as plans for renovation, alteration, and building additions.

A building chronology was compiled to assist with the selection and identification process. The time frame covers the period 1901 through 2004. From a collection of over 500 archival slides and 1450 archival photographs, approximately 700 items were selected to illustrate aspects of the history of the building. In addition to visual materials, some correspondence from the architect was selected as supplementary material relating to the building’s design and construction.

The significant modifications to the building since the close of the Fair include the addition of an office wing and auditorium in the 1950s; renovation of the East Wing and Sculpture Hall in 1977; a new office wing, which replaced the old 1950s office space, built over the auditorium in 1979; and construction of an underground conservation wing and the renovation of the West Wing completed in 1987.

All scanning was done on-site using a Microtek Artixscan 1800 flatbed transparency scanner with a Barco Calibrator Monitor; and a Microtek Artixscan 1100 flatbed scanner. Photographs were scanned at 600 ppi in 24-bit color, resulting in spatial resolution of 6000 pixels on the long edge. The 35mm slides were scanned at 1200 ppi resulting in a file size of 20–25MB. Masters are stored in Tiff format and were corrected for color accuracy and definition with Adobe Photoshop. Jpeg derivatives were created and are now stored on the Museum’s image file server.

Cass Gilbert’s Palace of Fine Arts: A Visual History of the Saint Louis Art Museum Building is accessible through the Saint Louis Art Museum’s website and the Virtually Missouri website at www.virtuallymissouri.org.