Heritage, Volume 4, Number 2, Fall 1986 Page: 30


Panhandle Plains Historical Museum; Canyon, Texas


Upon entering the exhibit the visitor sees a
by Kit Neumann lifesize drilling rig with a 20 foot square base and
a derrick disappearing into the ceiling 32 feet

The opening of the Don D. Harrington
Petroleum Wing at the Panhandle Plains
Historical Museum in Canyon, Texas represents
a landmark event for the museum.
The 75,000 square foot wing is dedicated
to the independent oil and gas operators
of the Panhandle and it incorporates the
latest in exhibit design and museum interpretation.
Five years of planning and
building and five million dollars went
into the project, totally funded by a grant
from the Don and Sybil Harrington Foundation
of Amarillo.
The new structure consists of a basement,
containing woodworking, paint,
and mechanical shops as well as a generous
storage area; a first floor dedicated to
paleontology and geology exhibits; and
second floor interpreting the Panhandle
oil and gas field from 1916 to 1940. The
integrated set of exhibits tells the geological
story behind oil and gas production
as well as the human involvement in
the endeavor. The wing and exhibits were
designed by Carol Cline who joined the
museum staff about 10 years ago as the
exhibit designer and is now in charge of
the exhibit department for the museum.
Upon entering the wing, the visitor
sees a lifesize drilling rig with a 20 foot

square base and a derrick disappearing
into the ceiling 32 feet above. Authentic
pieces of machinery from two rigs went
into this one on display.
The paleontology exhibit on the first
floor is arranged so that the visitor views
life on earth beginning with the very
oldest strata and progressing from Pre
Cambrian to Permian. A thirteen foot
long, eight foot high Dimetrodon stares
at the visitor from an elevated platform in
another area; then one enters the age of
the dinosaurs and comes face to face with
the Allosaurus skeleton towering fourteen
feet above the floor. Across the room prehistoric
life from the Tertiary and Quaternary
periods are on display. Most of the
large mammals existing through the ice
age are on exhibit, including the mastodon,
saber-toothed cats, a ground
sloth, and others. The development of
the horse from a three-toed animal the
size of a dog to its present status is shown.
Also represented is the development of
the bison from Latifrons which lived over
200,000 years ago and stood thirteen feet
high at the shoulder, to the modem animal
used by Plains Indians as a food

In the geology exhibit visitors can see a
thirty foot long reconstruction of Palo
Duro Canyon with its exposed formations
and land forms; and an audio-visual
presentation on surface water, its origin
and its importance to the plains occupies
a prominent spot in the room. In another
area a polar motion animation explains
how the Ogallala Aquifer developed and
how its use for irrigation purposes has
made the desert bloom. In another area,
an audio-visual presentation shows the
Amarillo Mountains along with the story
of their formation and importance to the
Panhandle. These educational exhibits
combine the latest in electronic technology
to present their messages. More
traditional exhibits in the geology area
show minerals along with photographic
enlargements of microscopic views of
their crystalline structure.
Upon entering the second floor petroleum
exhibit, the visitor is immediately
surrounded by a gigantic photo mural of
the Dixon Creek area in Hutchinson
County where many of the earliest oil discoveries
were made. Other murals portray
scenery and panoramic views of oil fields
of the area. Around the corner from the
murals is a wall dedicated to "The Men
Who" on one side and "Booming Borger"
on the other. There is a visitor operated
video presentation of four minutes that
utilizes film footage from the boom days of
The science of petroleum geology is depicted
by three associated exhibits. An
electronically operated display shows how
the science of those early days progressed
from surface observation to seismograph
techniques. A more traditional display reconstructs
an early day geologist's office
complete with tools of his trade and
photos illustrating how the work was
done. Finally, there is a three dimensional
wall display of how the common terminology
for geological formation during
the boom days evolved into more scientific
Upon leaving the geology exhibits, the
visitor enters the world of the oilfield
worker. Here, pipeliners, tank builders,
rig builders, drilling crews, shooters,
roustabouts, teamsters, and firefighters
explain how their labor kept the oil field

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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 4, Number 2, Fall 1986, periodical, 1986; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45442/m1/30/ocr/: accessed March 24, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.