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Stephen and Peter Sachs Museum

The scientific heart of the Garden for more than a century before closing to the public in 1982, Henry Shaw's original museum has reopened following a painstaking restoration and offers a unique opportunity to view rarely seen art, artifacts, and more collected over the last 160 years. 


Current Exhibit

Grafting the Grape: American Grapevine Rootstock in Missouri and the World

Summer 2021

Vitis aestivalis grapes detail

For millennia, humans have cultivated wine as a drink and for social, religious, and economic power. Drunk for social communion, held as a symbol of elite status, and offered in ritual ceremonies, wine made from the grapes of Vitis vinifera has been shipped and transplanted around the world, with the earliest winemaking traditions found in central Asia thousands of years ago. Today, wine enthusiasts are very familiar with the world-renowned wines that are grown in Europe, South America, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. Yet, drinking wine from this grape species would not be possible today without the research, identification, and development of 19th-century Missouri botanists, entomologists, and viticulturists.

A key culprit in this agricultural innovation is the result of an insect, Grape phylloxera, which found its way from the American Midwest to the vineyards of Europe in the 1850s; by the 1870s it had devastated the wine grape crop there, attacking and feeding on the plants’ roots to the point of killing the plants completely. It was the work of the Garden’s first botanist, Dr. George Engelmann, and the Missouri state entomologist Charles V. Riley, that identified the lifecycle of grape phylloxera (as evidenced on the native American grapevine plants and rootstock) as the cause of the devastation. In detecting the root cause of the problem, Engelmann and Riley worked with viticulturists to promulgate the idea of grafting the European grapevine (the scion) onto the American grapevine rootstock to allow for the European winemaking traditions to continue and develop as they had for centuries.
Contemporary artists were commissioned to make unique artworks interpreting this significant viticultural history and innovation. Dornith Doherty, renowned for her photographic work on seeds and global seedbanking, created three works in her series Roundabout (Circuition) especially created for the Grafting the Grape exhibition, which are inspired by the intersection of the historical innovation and the contemporary scientific research taking place in Dr. Allison Miller’s Vitis Underground project. Artist collaborators inspired by the impact of climate change on grapevines, Lei Han and Lorraine Walsh focused their work for Grafting the Grape on environmental shifts as seen through the seemingly disparate practices of ancient horticultural grafting techniques and contemporaneous machine learning (a subset of artificial intelligence). They created one sculpture, one series of drawings, two series of digital images, and three series of short films for the exhibition. Their art focuses on the native grapevine species Missouri Vitis aestivalis (also known as the Norton grape) and the process of this mediation in order to bring a fruitful awareness of the significant effect climatic change has on life. 
The Grafting the Grape exhibition explores the various American grape species that are most used in viticulture, grafting, and winemaking, and how they were and continue to be used by the Native peoples of Missouri. Today, these American grapevine rootstock species continue to provide research challenges as scientists study and understand how the rootstock plants affect the scion plant’s berries and chemical compounds (which affect the final wine product) as well as how climate change is impacting the future of viticulture around the world. 

Sponsored by

The Thomas A. Kooyumjian Family Foundation

Tony and Cindy Kooyumjian

National Science Foundation Plant Genome Research Program 1546869

The Missouri Botanical Garden’s Corporate Council with gifts from:

Neil Adams; Commerce Bank; Christi Dixon; C. Eric Lobser; Linda Lockwood; Protiviti; Regions Bank; Chris Schmidt; Julia

Steininger; UMB Bank; UHY Advisors; Steve Wang

Upcoming Virtual Events:

ASL interpretation and live captioning provided for each program, and presentations will be recorded for later viewing on the Missouri Botanical Garden YouTube channel.

Grafting the Grape Wine Tasting Series:
Winter White Wine Tasting
Winter Red Wine Tasting 

Grafting the Grape Virtual Lecture Series:
Watch Now: Missouri Vines and Wines: Then and Now
Watch Now: Archeology of American Indigenous Peoples' Use of Grapes
Watch Now: Missouri Viticulture in a Family Winery
Watch now: Choctaw Foodways
Watch Now: Art and Science Dialogue
Watch Now: Climate Change in Art

Artists Dornith Doherty, Lei Han, and Lorraine Walsh
•Allison Miller, Saint Louis University and Danforth Plant Science Center; National Science Foundation Plant Genome Research Program 1546869.  
•Keith Duncan, manager of the X-ray imaging facility and research scientist in Chris Topp's lab at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
•Laura L. Klein, Head Curator, Director of Herbal Research, LeafWorks Inc.; and Alex Roach, Director, Modified atmospheres, Australia 
•Michael J. Leonardelli, exhibition researcher and Aurora Prehn, exhibition researcher 
•Susan Kooiman, Assistant Professor, Anthropology, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville; Emma Warner, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
•Additional Sachs Museum program series presenters: Ian Thompson, Choctaw Nation Tribal Preservation Officer; Steffie Littlefield and Cyndy Keesee, Edg-Clif Vineyard, Winery & Brewery
•Thomas F. Bush, Bush family descendant and Missouri Botanical Garden volunteer
•David Maghradze, Institute of Horticulture, Viticulture and Oenology, Tbilisi, Georgia & National Wine Agency of Georgia; Tamar Maghradze, Viticulture & Enology University of Turin; Marina Mosulishvili, Ilia State University, Curator Georgian National Museum, TGM Herbarium; Nana Bitsadze, Agricultural University of Georgia, Curator Mycological Herbarium and Fungal Culture Collection; Anzor Uzunashvili, Winemaker Mukado Wines.
•Special acknowledgments to Garden staff who shared their expertise and collections on view here: Dr. Peter Wyse Jackson, Jim Solomon, Mary Merello, Sally Bommarito, Lauren Boyle, Fred Gauna, Tad Yankoski, Chris Hartley, Jennifer Smock, Robbie Hart, Aurora Prehn, Haley O’Toole, Cassidy Mooody, Doug Holland, Andrew Colligan, Mike Blomberg, Susie Cobbledick, and Garden designers Mary Shocklee and Ellen Flesch.
•Especial thanks to the Sachs Museum remote interns who contributed to the research, text, and illustrations of the exhibition: Alexandra Lebovitz, Megan Rossman, Anne Farrell, Natalia Granquist, Heather Sheppard, Danielle Griffin, Elias Larralde, Isobel Abbot-Dethrow, Eleanor Schulz, Kyra Tani Little, Edina Krantic, Charlotte Filiciotto, Anna Wachtel, Kimberly Schwartz, Yukeria Haywood, Mackenzie Shields, and Alex Arata.


A New Leaf: Reimagining Henry Shaw's Museum

Follow along on the painstaking 18-month rehabilitation of the museum building in this HEC documentary. 


Hours and Admission

The Stephen and Peter Sachs Museum is open 11:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Tuesday–Sunday and is free with regular Garden admission.

Check back here for more virtual offerings of our current exhibits, and follow the Garden's social media channels for more Sachs Museum content.

You can also learn more about the current exhibit online on our blog by reading one of the following posts:

Grafting the Grape: American Grapevine Rootstock in Missouri and the World

Grafting the Grape: Indigenous Use of Grapes

Grafting the Grape: The Rich History of Georgian Winemaking

Preserving the Past for the Future

Support the ongoing maintenance of the Sachs Museum.  

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