Lewis and Clark Camp DuBois State Historic Site
Lewis and Clark Camp DuBois State Historic Site

Lewis and Clark Camp DuBois State Historic Site

Exhibitions at the Lewis & Clark State Historic Site
The 14,000 square-foot facility, located at the Winter camp area of the expedition, will be the first site on the National Lewis and Clark Heritage Trail. A 55-foot full scale replica of the keel boat used by Lewis and Clark will be the central exhibition. There will also be exhibits on Illinois and the entire expedition as well as a video to be shown in the facility's theatre.

Gallery 1
"Across the Continent" Visitors start at the large globe which emphasizes international trade routes and reliance of 19th century Europeans and Americans on water for trade, and communications. For centuries, the best highways were waterways. Sailing ships carried trade goods around the world. Explorers charted coastlines and rivers. Most cities grew near large waterways. For over a hundred years the French Coureurs de bois and Voyageurs traveled and traded along the Missouri River, which offered an access to the Northwest. American farmers were just starting to settle the Ohio River valley in 1803, and traders were moving along the Mississippi. To reach the markets of Asia, European and American ships had to sail far south around Caped Horn, a difficult and dangerous voyage. Merchants had dreamed for centuries of a "Northwest Passage," a shortcut across North America.

Most Americans lived along rivers and coastlines in 1803. Nearly all of the nation's 25 largest cities were located on navigable waterways. Water offered the most practical way to transport farm products and other bulk cargo to distant markets. Ohio and Mississippi Valley farmers relied on river barges to get goods to New Orleans where they were loaded on ships bound for the East and Europe. The long distance roads of 1803 were often unreliable. Poorly built and poorly maintained, they provided rough passage, especially in bad weather. A traveler leaving Boston could reach London sooner by ship then St. Louis by land.

In 1802, Aaron Arrowsmith highlighted recent information from British explorers Alexander Mackenzie and George Vancouver to produce this map. The map reveals the limited extent of European and American knowledge concerning what was west of the Mississippi River. The large Arrowsmith map stresses the continent's known water routes and the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers followed by Lewis and Clark to Camp River Dubois. A shaded questions mark reemphasizes the Expedition had more questions then answers concerning the newly acquired Louisiana Territory.

Gallery 2
"Visions" exhibit gallery presents differing views of America and the West. President Thomas Jefferson's plans and dreams for West are compared with those of his British, French and Spanish rivals; these are also contrasted with Native American viewpoints. Visitors can see what people speculated about Western geography, plants, and animals. They can also learn how Lewis and Clark gathered information about the West from traders, soldiers, and civic leaders.

A woodland environment features early 19th century ideas, goals, and questions that brought the Corps to Camp River Dubois. At the edge of the trees, visitors are teased with views of the "Bound for the Westward" exhibits on the lower level. "'Visions' sets the stage and begins building the emotional energy that will reach a crescendo in the Convergence Theater," said Hilferty.

The display area "Visions of Empire" highlights the conflicting European and American aspirations for the West. This area includes period farming tools; a reproduction of Captain Robert Gray's map locating the mouth of the Columbia River; fur trade pelts; European trade goods; a top hat; British currency; a Spanish Conquistador helmet; and the seal of the Louisiana Purchase.

"Visions of Home" features images and objects that demonstrate the wide diversity of people that inhabited the western prairie. The area includes Native American images and symbols, as well as objects representing the diversity of the native peoples; and objects and images portraying hunting, fishing, farming, food processing and storage, clothing, recreation, and housing.

"Visions of the Unknown" show what "enlightened" scholars thought the expedition would encounter. A mammoth skull is displayed amid a cabinet of curiosities that may have tantalized early 1800s scholars, and interactive exhibits demonstrate the often conflicting theories about Western geography, flora and fauna. Items on display include reproductions of 1803 maps, period scientific books and instruments, and reproductions of plants and animals.

"Visions from the Frontier" highlights the information Lewis and Clark gleaned from traders, soldiers, land speculators, and local residents about the West. Displays include images of the people who provided information to the expedition, and maps gathered from local traders.

Gallery 3
The Convergence Theater provides a 12-minute, high-definition video orientation presentation which uses high-impact visuals projected onto a 14 by 25 foot area of the theater wall. The presentation also uses full-range surround sound and special lighting to connect visitors to the momentous convergence of people, place, and ideas that occurred at Camp River Dubois in preparation for the Expedition. Links between camp preparations and later events in the journey are explored through an engaging storyline that includes brief but dramatic "flash forward" scenes.

Visitors entering the theater step into a dreamlike realm. Light reflecting off rippling water dances through the space. The sound of water, flowing or gently rippling, can be heard, slowly giving way to the thunder of a waterfall, only to drift slowly away again into the distance. Then there is stillness, broken only by birdsong and wind whispering through shoreline trees. Under the whisper, we begin to hear the rhythm, at first barely perceptible, of a steadily pounding surf. The sound of the surf grows more and more distinct, at last carrying our mind's eye to a jagged Pacific coastline, waves crashing over the rocks, drawing back and crashing again. The sound slowly fades back into the sounds of a river - flowing, rippling, pooling, swirling, and rolling on.

Then, the film begins. "The Convergence Theater is an isolated, dramatic experience that transports and immerses visitors in the power of this place - the literal and metaphorical launching point of the expedition," said Donna Lawrence, principal of Donna Lawrence Productions Inc., who produced the film. "Visitors are engaged in a powerful, visceral level as they encounter the Corps of Discovery on the brink of a momentous journey."

Gallery 4
"Bound for the Westward" takes a broad view of the journey and draws links between the preparations at Camp River Dubois and experiences along the trail.

A full-size keelboat, framed by a wall mural of the riverbank, points dramatically westward. At 55 feet long the boat is the most impressive exhibit in the Visitor Center, with its mast reaching more than 30 feet high. It was constructed by hand of authentic materials, and looks as though it is just minutes away from beginning the journey. From one side visitors can see the exterior of the boat, but the other side is cut away to show the interior and how provisions for the Expedition were stored, an important consideration on a journey of unknown length into uncharted territory.

Objects surrounding the boat emphasize preparations underway at Camp River Dubois. Firearms, peace medals, trade goods, blacksmithing and carpentry tools, medicine, food, and mapping equipment are prepared and loaded at the camp for purposes along the journey. Camp life and visits from local residents show the daily activities of Corps members. Copious quotes from letters, journals, and field notes lend the primary perspectives of the Corps. Ambient sound enlivens the space by suggesting seasonal changes and daily rhythms. The building architecture invites exterior light and creates a visible courtyard for exterior programs.

"Camp Life" includes several interactive exhibits. Visitors try to identify the purposes of tools used by expedition members, and try to make their own lists of supplies they would need for such a journey. A partially constructed shelter from Camp River Dubois graphically demonstrates the living conditions for the expedition's men during a typical Illinois winter. Visitors play a medical matching game where they prescribe period remedies to cure the corresponding illnesses of the men. Visitors can also see food from the expedition's menu and learn its dietary implications.

"The Corps" allows visitors to test their skills and qualifications against the men chosen for the expedition to see if they have the "right stuff." They may also pass judgment on members of the Corps who violated the military code of conduct used in 1804, and see how their judgments stack up with Lewis and Clark's. Exhibited items include a map with each Corps member's home town; period clothing; objects related to the daily lives and tasks of Corps members; and a section on military discipline that features whiskey containers, a switch for administering lashes, and a military manual.

"Native Relations" explores the expedition's plan to act as U.S. ambassadors to Native Americans they encountered on their journey. The difficulties of communicating in several unknown languages are highlighted, and peace medals and gifts are displayed.

"Departing," at the western point of the gallery, allows visitors to peer through a telescope at images of the western landscape much as it would have been seen by the expedition. Journal quotes offer parting words from Corps members.

Gallery 5
"An Epic Journey" features an audio reading of the Lewis and Clark journals and reproductions of the flora and fauna drawings the men made in their journals, as well as mounted samples of several of the "new" species they encountered. Clark's estimates of the time the journey would take, made while at Camp River Dubois, are compared with the actual time the journey took.

Gallery 6
"Rediscovering the Corps" examines the outcome of the expedition and challenges visitors to question the myths and meanings associated with the Lewis and Clark expedition. Images emphasize the transformation of the West following the journey: Native American conquest, railroads, cattle drives, dams, wheat combines, cities, and highways.

Visitors may also find out what happened to Corps members after the expedition, learn how popular culture has depicted the journey, and contribute their own perspectives.


Lewis & Clark State Historic Site and the official Camp River Dubois web site is owned and operated by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. Text or graphics may not be copied, rewritten or distributed in any manner whatsoever without written permission. For more information, contact clark@campdubois.com © 2006 All rights reserved world wide.