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St. Louis Holocaust museum holds groundbreaking for new facility

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Gloria Kaplan Feldman

Gloria Kaplan Feldman and Harvey Wolf reveal the new name of the future museum as Leslie Wolf looks on. 

The St. Louis Kaplan Feldman Holocaust Museum held a virtual groundbreaking today for its new $21 million facility on the Millstone Campus near Creve Coeur.

The new building, which the organization hopes to open in mid 2022, will also operate under a different name. It had previously been the Holocaust Museum & Learning Center and has been renamed in honor of the family of Gloria Kaplan Feldman, a local Holocaust survivor with a long history of philanthropy in the local Jewish community. Her family includes her brother, David Kaplan, who is also a Holocaust survivor. 

The new building, at 35,000 square feet, will quadruple the size of the previous space and include an environmentally-controlled archives space to preserve more than 12,000 artifacts; a new space to display temporary exhibitions from the museum’s collections and other institutions; a new multipurpose area with seating for up to 250 visitors for programs and community events; and a space dedicated to onsite research for students and scholars.

Artist's rendering

Artist's rendering of the new St. Louis Kaplan Feldman Holocaust Museum.

“We are building a 21st century museum that will bring the history and lessons of the Holocaust directly to visitors from St. Louis and the surrounding region,” Don Hannon, acting executive director of the museum, stated in a news release. “The new facility will increase our opportunities to engage with students from hundreds of regional schools and with the community through lectures, films, and other events. We will be able to host more students and larger groups than ever before.”

The groundbreaking comes four months after the museum’s executive director, Sandra Harris, resigned only six months after starting in the position.

Hannon told the Light Harris' resignation did not delay the organization's plan for the new museum and that it has no immediate plans to hire a new executive director. 

“Sandra did some great work when she was here and really moved a lot of things forward,” he said.

The museum has raised $18.7 million for the project, including a $750,000 challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and support from local groups such as Centene, J.E & L.E. Mabee Foundation, Enterprise, Barnes Jewish Hospital, and the Bellwether Foundation.

Philanthropist Carol Staenberg is chairing the museum’s capital campaign.

“We’re honored by the support we have received from the many individuals, corporations, and foundations,” Staenberg stated in a news release. “The goal of our institution is to make sure we tell the story of the Holocaust and its lessons. We look forward to maintaining its relevance well into the 21st century so even more Missourians and visitors from all over can study and learn from the brutality of the Holocaust.”

The museum has been closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic and will remain closed until construction is completed. But it will continue to offer virtual programming and if the pandemic allows, could offer in-person exhibits in the Jewish Federation of St. Louis building, also named for the Kaplan Feldman family.

Gloria Kaplan Feldman

Gloria Kaplan Feldman, Holocaust Survivor

The museum will feature survivor stories from an extensive collection of 235 oral histories.

TR,i, a St. Louis-based architecture firm, is designing the exterior of the museum, and museum planning and design firm Gallagher & Associates is designing the interior. The firm recently worked on the Soldiers Memorial Military Museum in St. Louis.

A.J. Brown, a general contracting company, will serve as the general contractor for the project.

For more information or to donate, visit STLHolocaustMuseum.org.