Moslers Legacy Not Lost

A couple weeks ago, we discussed the loss of Murwin Mosler’s work in the form of prints and negatives due to Mosler’s daughter’s home being hit by the May 22nd tornado.  At the time, it was thought that every aspect of Mosler’s legacy had been lost, scattered across the city and Southwest Missouri.  It was recently reported that this was not so.  In an oddly termed “rescue” it was discovered that over 25,000 negatives had not been lost, but instead were actually buried in the rubble of the home.   At present, the negatives  are in the possession of the Joplin Museum Complex for the purpose of being “saved” by the permission of Mosler’s daughter.

What the “saved” process entails is the sorting and categorizing of the negatives, which involves documenting the names of the individual in the photographs that date from 1939 to 1986.  This will be done by the Museum Complex’s volunteers, who museum director  Brad Belk notes in the article, “have never done anything like this…”  and will have to create a database to allow for easy search and distribution.  In the end, Joplin residents who lost photographs might be able to find replacement photographs within this collection.  Belk stated he hoped that the process would take only three months.  We expect this is an optimistic timeline given the lack of experience of the JMC staff, despite having an extensive collection of historic photographs of Joplin.  What the JMC should do is reach out to the State Archives staff that Secretary of State Robin Carnahan has sent to Joplin.   The State Archives have extensive experience in the sorting,  cataloging, restoration and preservation of photographs, particularly those that have suffered damage.

We’re happy to know that the negatives were not lost and an effort will be made to catalog and document this important part of Joplin’s history.  We do hope that when the Mosler collection has been fully cataloged that it’s contents will be made available to the public at large.

Guest Post: Down Not Out – Leslie Simpson


By Leslie Simpson

On a pleasant Sunday evening, May 22, 2011, an EF-5 tornado suddenly raged through densely-populated south Joplin.  It destroyed almost everything in its path for 13.8 miles in distance and up to a mile in width.

The tornado smashed down in southwest Joplin, wrecking residential areas, Cunningham Park, schools, medical offices, and a major hospital complex, St. John’s. It headed east, obliterating untold acres of late nineteenth and early twentieth century houses.  The storm’s wrath intensified as it forged east, razing businesses along Main Street, more neighborhoods, and Joplin High School.  It wiped out much of the lifeblood of Joplin’s economy, the commercial strip on Range Line Road, then rampaged on, demolishing housing, banks, industrial buildings, and more schools and churches.  It finally dissipated east of Joplin, after destroying or damaging an estimated 8,000 homes and businesses.

At the time of this writing, authorities have confirmed 138 fatalities, a number which continues to rise.  More than 1,150 people sustained injuries.  The Joplin tornado, the deadliest since modern record keeping began in 1950, ranks eighth among the deadliest tornadoes in U.S. history.

We are in shock.  We drive familiar streets yet cannot even recognize where we are.  The cruel landscape of endless rubble and shredded trees reminds us of shattered lives and endless grief.  We have lost so much, and we are hurting on many levels.  But our spirit is strong, as evidenced by the person who spray-painted “Down not out” on the shards of his former home.

Leslie Simpson, an expert on Joplin history and architecture, is the director of the Post Memorial Art Reference Library, located within the Joplin Public Library. She is the author of From Lincoln Logs to Lego Blocks: How Joplin Was Built, Now and Then and Again: Joplin Historic Architecture. and the soon to be released, Joplin: A Postcard History.