Posted: 4/22/2024 | Print Friendly Version

Missouri Botanical Garden announces latest Museum exhibition - Kernels of Culture: Maize Around the World  

Stephen and Peter Sachs Museum highlights science, culture and future of maize  


WHAT: Educational exhibition on maize 

WHEN: Friday, May 3, 2024-March 31, 2025  

WHERE: Stephen and Peter Sachs Museum   

4344 Shaw Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63110  

COST: Free with admission to the Garden  



(ST. LOUIS) -The Stephen and Peter Sachs Museum, located at the Missouri Botanical Garden, is highlighting the significant role maize has played in agriculture, scientific development and culture at its latest exhibition – Kernels of Culture: Maize Around the World.  


Through the exhibition, the Garden hopes to give visitors a deeper scientific and cultural understanding of this familiar plant while examining how it could impact the future of agriculture.  


“The Garden is very proud to present this new exhibition on Maize, exploring many aspects of its botany, history, evolution, culture and importance to the world,” said Garden President Peter Wyse Jackson. “Not only does it represent an opportunity to showcase the Garden’s important maize collections, but it also highlights the extraordinary evolution of this crop to support human lives and our North American economy for millennia.” 


The exhibition will open on Friday, May 3 and will remain at the Sachs Museum through March. The Sachs Museum is open daily from 11:30 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. and is included in Garden admission. 


About the exhibition:  

Commonly referred to as corn in the United States, maize has been a staple of agriculture throughout the world for several centuries and is now one of the three largest global food crops. In Kernels of Culture: Maize Around the World, the Sachs Museum will be taking a closer look at how this familiar food has evolved over the past several thousand years. Through historic maize specimens and contemporary scientific research, Museum Curator Nezka Pfeifer plans to illustrate the botanical and cultural evolution of maize and how this plant plays a role in the future of crop diversity and food sovereignty.  


“A key element of the Kernels of Culture exhibition is the direct relationship maize and humans have had for thousands of years. It was the ingenuity of ancient Central Americans who figured out that the teosinte grass, the wild ancestor to modern-day could be hybridized again and again to be grown for desirable traits, such as bigger and softer kernels and developed a cob that could hold hundreds of kernels to be used for food,” Pfeifer explained. “Once people spread this plant around the world, they continued to develop it so it would acclimate and grow well under different environmental conditions. The colorful and appetizing corn cobs we know and enjoy today would not have been possible without all the hands of farmers adapting it through these thousands of years.” 


The exhibition will also examine maize’s cultural impact by featuring historic objects and stories from diverse communities including Black and Indigenous farmers, whiskey distillers, jewelry makers, and over 200 local student artists. Garden supporter Nancy Ridenour sponsored the unique art commissions by local artists Waleska Font and Megan Singleton that focus on different aspects of maize. 



“Maize is extremely versatile plant—it has been used as food for thousands of years and has been used by humans for many other purposes such as fuel, medicine. It is so ubiquitous in our daily lives, we don’t necessarily realize the scope of this until we start looking at all of these materials,” Pfeifer said. “I hope that all the Museum’s visitors will see objects that are very familiar to them from their childhoods, but also appreciate that there are many layers to maize in our shared human history—and that they’ll want to learn more!”  


The Garden will host events and classes throughout the exhibition’s 11-month run to further educate and connect visitors to the varied history and cultural importance of maize.   


The Sachs Museum Performance Series, also supported by Nancy Ridenour, features four sets of local performers. Each set of two performances takes place at 11am and 1pm on Saturdays, when the Garden offers free admission till noon to St. Louis City and County citizens with proof of residency. All performances take place at the Sachs Museum are about 30-45 minutes in duration. 


  • June 29, 2024: “The Sacred Crop” with exhibition artist Waleska Font spoken poetry performance with music by Patrick Rafferty, guitarist 

  • August 10, 2024: “A Corn-Fed Musical Comedy Performance” (outdoors weather permitting) by Opera Bell Band will present a musical show inspired by the history of corn in the Midwest United States, featuring original songs and comedy routines 

  • September 21, 2024: “Harmonies of the Andes” by the musical ensemble Intillajta (“land of the sun” in the Quechua language) explores the authentic sounds of the Andean mountain region, featuring a lineup of traditional instruments that include the Charango, Sikus (Andean panpipes), Quena (Andean flute), and Andean drums. Immerse yourself in the mesmerizing melodies of Quechua and Aymara origin, and dive into the vibrant rhythms and captivating tunes that pay homage to the agricultural heritage of the Andes. 

  • October 12, 2024: “Appropriation: The Spanish Guitar, Maize, and the New World” is a program of Spanish guitar music featuring Renaissance and Baroque guitar presented by guitarist Patrick Rafferty 


For more information on the exhibitions and the Museum, please visit



The Missouri Botanical Garden’s mission is “to discover and share knowledge about plants and their environment in order to preserve and enrich life.” Today, 165 years after opening, the Missouri Botanical Garden is a National Historic Landmark and a center for science, conservation, education and horticultural display.