There’s something both sobering and thrilling about stepping foot into a museum. The realization there are thousands of years of history culminating into the present day gives me goosebumps.
Texas has a rich history and it’s easy to delve in at Bullock Texas State History Museum in central Austin. The museum offers you a full look at the key events in our state’s history. But with the newest exhibition, you can step back to the time before Texas existed.
What Is Bullock Texas State History Museum?
Bullock Texas State History Museum opened in 2001 and features a wide range of artifacts that played a great significance in Texas history. Items range from the earliest object found in our state, to Stephen F. Austin’s pine desk, to the AT-6 “Texas” World War II advanced flight trainer airplane.
There are three floors in the museum full of our state’s rich history, interactive touch screens, and videos that put you smack dab in the middle of historical events.
The museum also features two theaters: Bullock IMAX and Texas Spirit Theater. The IMAX theater shows current popular films on the largest screen in the state. On the other hand, Texas Spirit Theater on the second floor features original film series, artist talks, lectures, live music performances, and daily showings of multi-sensory films.
Immerse Yourself in Pre-Texas History
Bullock Museum unveiled its latest addition in December 2018, an exhibition called “Becoming Texas: Our Story Begins Here.” This first floor gallery encapsulates the history of our area before it became known as Texas. Visitors explore the various timelines of American Indians, French travelers, and Spanish settlers by viewing thousands of artifacts, key documents, and interactive touch screens.
“Becoming Texas” doesn’t hold back its awe-inspiring knowledge. A small stone weapon called Projection Point is located at the entrance. The significance of this small artifact is astounding. When this exhibition was first being planned, local history was thought to go back 10,000 years.
However, this line of thinking was challenged when Projection Point was found at the Gault archaeological site north of Austin. With it, archaeologists determined that our area’s history extends back 16,000 years. Projection Point’s inclusion in “Becoming Texas” is a reminder that history is always shifting as new discoveries are made.
American Indian History
As guests move past Projection Point, they are brought face-to-face with artifacts of cultural and spiritual importance to the American Indians who lived here prior to European settlers stepping foot onto the land. The first display case includes items such as a gorgeous Turquoise bracelet, sandal, bottom of a basket, and more. In order to humanize the artifacts and show how much power it took to hunt, there is an interactive set of bows visitors can test.
La Belle Ship
“Becoming Texas” continues through the global story of settlers as they moved into Texas from Mexico, the Gulf, and the east. Take a glance at Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca’s book recounting his journey in North America, a silver plancha, and more before moving on to the story of La Belle.
The La Belle ship was one of four that René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, used to travel inland in 1684. The gallery leads guests through the lifespan of the ship and its eventual demise in 1686, along with the murder of La Salle by his disgruntled crew.
The ship, recovered off the coast of Texas, boasted over 1.8 million artifacts including trade tools, glass beads, rings, weapons, and pieces of the ship’s rigging. La Belle stands in the middle of the first half of the gallery and includes interactive touch screens.
➡️ Keep reading: 7 Reasons to See a Shipwreck in Austin
Visitors step next into the history of Spanish settlers as they built their first missions and started communities within the area of Texas. Some of the artifacts guests can look forward to seeing include a Spanish census document, ranching materials, and a sturdy pair of breathtaking mission gates that have stood the test of time.
Tribal Activity Throughout the Year
“Becoming Texas” brings us back to the history of the American Indian peoples. A giant wall shows the activities each tribe participated in during each season of the year: trading, hunting, farming, etc. The lights indicating the season change as we move throughout the year. There are also different materials guests can touch and feel: beads, pottery, leather.
One of my favorite parts of the exhibit lies toward the end of the gallery. A giant bison, crafted by Deep in the Heart Foundry, stands in the middle of the room. Its name is Sacred Spirit and the word bison is written at the base in several native languages.
Just beyond this beautiful statue is a large screen filled with video of landscapes throughout Texas. Guests will be taken in by the pure serenity of these scenes. Every now and then, the voices of American Indians echo in their native languages. To be honest, I could have stayed there all day if given the choice.
Cases of key artifacts and documents line the exit. The Treaty of Paris, Treaty of San Ildefonso, and Adams-Onis Treaty are all on display. The very last case is called Texas Roots and features items from families who have been in Texas for generations. These items will change every six months to a year.
Once you exit “Becoming Texas: Our Story Begins Here,” you can move to the second floor to learn about Texas history from 1821 to 1936.
@theAustinot wants to know:
What’s your favorite exhibit or artifact at Bullock Texas State History Museum?