Drawn from the rich collection of the National Building Arts Center (NBAC), Urban Archaeology brings together salvaged architectural elements from landmark buildings, residential homes, and neighborhood institutions built in St. Louis between 1840 and 1950. The artifacts on display represent important histories of material innovation, labor, and the everyday lives of the people who inhabit the city. The exhibition sheds light on the city’s history, revealing complicated legacies of power, wealth, and neglect that shape our experience of the built environment and daily life. By studying St. Louis’s architectural past, Urban Archeology encourages us to imagine new ways of building, keeping, knowing, and inhabiting places.
Located in Sauget, Illinois, the National Building Arts Center emerged in response to the rapid economic decline and widespread demolition the city experienced beginning in the 1950s. NBAC has worked over four decades to salvage and preserve significant parts of condemned buildings that would otherwise be completely lost, amassing the largest and most diversified collection of building artifacts in the United States. Urban Archaeology is the most extensive public presentation of NBAC’s collection to date.