Heritage, Volume 10, Number 2, Spring 1992 Page: 27
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Historic Tour of
Museum of the Big Bend
By Kenneth D. Perry
The Big Bend country of Texas is a large
and magnificent reflection of its history.
This country of stark desert, rugged mountains,
and wide open spaces was conquered
by a succession of Indians, from primitive
to nomadic modern, the Spanish, and courageous
Anglo settlers who built the towns
that dot the landscape today. The story of
these peoples and this land is told at the
Museum of the Big Bend, located at Sul
Ross State University in Alpine.
The museum uses showcase displays,
room settings, like the popular General
Store exhibit, and artifacts to tell the diverse
tales of the Big Bend. A new handson
Discovery Center, tells these tales
through the use of touch, vivid color, and
stunning visuals, all reflecting the latest
advances in museum exhibit techniques.
But, the Museum of the Big Bend is not
a new museum. It is an outgrowth and
continuation of the Big Bend Memorial
Museum, established by the West Texas
Historical and Scientific Society in 1926.
It was the brainchild of Victor J. Smith
and Roy Bendicheck, members of the first
Sul Ross faculty, who first displayed local
Indian artifacts on a shelf in the Biology
Department. By 1925, the collection had
outgrown this limited space and was moved
into two rooms in the university Administration
Dr. Horace W. Morelock, then president
of Sul Ross, obtained a $25,000 grant
in 1935, that enabled the Society to construct,
with the help of the WPA, a museum
building on campus. Dedicated on
May 1, 1937, this new rock facility, which
today is the University Student Center,
housed more than 21,000 items that reflected
life in the Big Bend. Many of these
same artifacts are today part of the Museum
of the Big Bend.
As enrollment grew at Sul Ross, it became
necessary to utilize the museum
space for student life purposes, and the
museum was closed and its collection stored.
In 1968, under the direction of then
university president, Norman McNeill,
renovation of the current facility began,
and in July of 1969, the museum opened in
its present location.
In the years since the move, the museum
has added a gazebo gift shop, a reconstructed
general mercantile store that was
operated for many years in Marfa, and parts
of a blacksmith shop that was in Alpine.
This year, the Discovery Center, an out
door sculpture area that contains a 4,500
pound Longhorn, and a replica of the Big
Bend Pterosaur wing were added.
The museum also hosts a number of
temporary exhibits during the year, including
the popular "Trappings of Texas." This
show is an unique blend of custom cowboy
gear and fine art, which opens in conjunction
with the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering
held annually in March in Alpine.
The Museum of the Big Bend is open
Tuesday through Saturday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00
p.m. and on Sunday from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.;
admission to the museum is free.
Kenneth D. Perry is the director of the Museum
of the Big Bend in Alpine.
HERITAGE * SPRING 1992 27
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 10, Number 2, Spring 1992, periodical, Spring 1992; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45420/m1/27/: accessed June 29, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.