MOMENTUM: Bridging Past, Present, and Future

On display September 28-December 15, 2019
John M. Olin Library, Level 1, Kagan Grand Staircase Lobby

The exhibition focuses on the inauguration theme of Momentum. One exhibit case highlights the Eads Bridge and the many connections to Washington University in St. Louis, including original drawings of the bridge along with books and images. The second exhibit case highlights stories that reflect on some aspect of WashU’s history, which Chancellor Martin has told at various events on campus and in the community in his first months as chancellor.

The stories fit into four themes:

  • In St. Louis, For St. Louis
  • Educational Access
  • Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
  • Academic Distinction and Staff Excellence

WashU History

One of the chancellor’s many responsibilities is to inspire members of the community —whether it be to engender action, solidify the university’s mission, create a shared vision, or solicit critical reflection and insights. In his first months as WashU’s15th chancellor, Andrew D. Martin has utilized storytelling as a way to inspire. Often those stories reflect on some aspect of our past in order to define the path that has led to our present and lay the foundation for our future, providing a way to visualize momentum — the theme for Chancellor Martin’s inauguration. Illustrated in this display are some of the stories Chancellor Martin has told at various events on campus and in the community.

Eads Bridge

The Eads Bridge is a wonderful metaphor for the concept of momentum – the theme for Chancellor Martin’s inauguration. For St. Louisans, the bridge stood for the progressive, innovative spirit of a city looking to regain its momentum as one of the major cities of the United States and the world. Designed by James B. Eads, the bridge was an engineering marvel including the revolutionary use of steel to increase the strength of the bridge and using upright arches as the method of support. It was the world’s first steel arch bridge and the longest span arch bridge built up to the time of its construction (1867-1874).

The connections of the Eads Bridge to WashU are numerous.

  • WashU’s second chancellor, William Chauvenet, personally checked the mathematical formulas, assuring the bridge was structurally sound.
  • Classes would visit the construction site to study art and architecture.
  • Testing equipment used to build the bridge was purchased by the university for the civil engineering lab.
  • WashU professor Calvin Woodward would later write a history of the Eads Bridge, titled “The St. Louis Bridge.”
  • Today the original drawings of the bridge are preserved (physically and digitally) at the Julian Edison Department of Special Collections in University Libraries.