America’s most trusted man, Scooby’s Mystery Machine, and antique veterinary tools that would send Scooby howling to the hills—you’ll find them at these three Missouri museums. Head here to learn about wonderful and wonderfully weird exhibits.

By Glory Fagan

Missouri’s museums capture the essence of our state, whether it’s through our art, our history, or our collections of gargantuan hairballs. In our June 2023 issue, we took you on a journey inside 12 of the state’s most unusual museums. Here are three more to add to your itinerary.

Walter Cronkite Memorial St. Joseph

Walter Cronkite, the much beloved anchor for the CBS Evening News from 1962 to 1981, was first in the hearts of viewers and repeatedly voted most trusted man in America in national polls. At the time, this finding was surprising in that he outdistanced the president and the pope in terms of integrity and trustworthiness. Cronkite earned this trust from readers, listeners, and viewers during some of America’s most tumultuous times during the 20th century through the mediums of print, radio, and television. Missouri Western State University pays tribute to this St. Joseph-born journalist with the Walter Cronkite Memorial. 

A museum as well as a memorial, the 5,000-square-foot facility includes a replica of the newsroom from which Cronkite broadcast the news as it appeared in the late 1960s to early 1970s. Featuring both replicas and actual artifacts, the newsroom gives visitors the opportunity to sit behind the news desk and take a selfie or have a friend snap a photo. 

The memorial is not only a tribute to the man himself, but also to his times. Cronkite served as a correspondent during World War II, the Korean Conflict, and the Vietnam War. He reported on the Civil Rights Movement and Watergate. Uncle Walter, as he was nicknamed, was at the forefront of coverage of election results, as well as the liftoff of the manned space program. A dramatic sculpture of a Saturn rocket from the Apollo era takes center stage at the Spratt Hall Atrium. 

The vision of Dr. Robert Vartabedian, former president of Missouri Western State University, the museum aims to create a fitting memorial to St. Joseph’s beloved native son and one of the most important voices in our country’s history. Visitors come away heartened by this gallery, which includes memorabilia and artifact displays, original artwork, a photographic timeline, and broadcast video kiosks devoted to America’s most trusted man.

Celebrity Car Museum Branson

Filled with more than 100 vehicles in a 30,000-square-foot facility, the Celebrity Car Museum is parked along the famous Highway 76 that carries traffic through the heart of Branson. For over a decade, this family-owned-and-operated museum has featured celebrity-owned or movie-featured vehicles. Forty percent of the displays rotate each year, so there is always something new to see. 

The ever-evolving assemblage of iconic automobiles includes an iconic Back to the Future DeLorean time machine and an assortment of Fast and Furious vehicles. A visit to the museum is an immersive event, and visitors can be the star of the show as they have their picture taken behind the wheel where their favorite stars once sat. Take your family on a vacation to see the Griswold’s “Wagon Queen Family Truckster” station wagon, or check out Scooby Doo’s Mystery Machine. 

Costume and prop exhibits enhance the extensive collection of celebrity and movie memorabilia. The museum’s owners have been in the celebrity attraction business for decades. Prior to opening the car museum, mother and son duo Scott and Kathy Velvet owned Elvis Presley museums across the United States and hope to pass this collection on to the next generation. The museum staff is extremely knowledgeable about all matters related to pop-culture, and visitors are encouraged to ask questions.

Veterinary Museum Jefferson City

Very few museums claim hair balls, conjoined pigs, and the skeletal remains of a whale as their most popular attractions, but the Veterinary Museum in Jefferson City can. This animal science-themed museum holds the distinction of being not only the first such museum in Missouri but also the first in the United States.

The museum, curated by the Missouri Veterinary Medical Association, houses more than 1,000 artifacts documenting the history of veterinary medicine from the 16th century to the present. It includes a small animal surgical suite and a display of patent medicines. Often these “magic potions” contained the same formula for man and beast, as well as being fortified with as much as a 40 percent alcohol. An amazing array of veterinary instruments includes a trocar to relieve bloat and balling guns to administer pills to large mammals. To the fascination of visitors of all ages, skeletons and animal skins give insight into all creatures great and small, inside and out, including those that swallowed items which had to be surgically removed from their stomach. Flat penny collectors will be delighted by the machine that will produce three different designs commemorating their visit.

See the amazing machines that transformed farming.