Texas Memorial Museum

The Texas Memorial Museum, located on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin in Austin, Texas, USA, was built as part of the preparations for the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition. The museum’s emphasis is on natural history, which includes paleontology, geology, biology, herpetology, ichthyology, and entomology. The museum once housed exhibits on Texas history, anthropology, geography, and ethnography, but these were relocated to other museums (including the Bullock Texas State History Museum) in 2001.

John F. Staub designed the building in the Art Deco style, with Paul Cret as the supervising architect. President Franklin D. Roosevelt broke ground on the building in January 1936. The museum opened on January 15, 1939.

The Austin Chronicle named the museum “Best of Austin” three times in 2002, 2005, and 2012.

Linda Hicke, the dean of Austin’s College of Natural Sciences, slashed the museum’s funding by $400,000 in October 2013 and transferred ownership to the American Legion Texas Branch. The crew was cut from twelve to three: a security guard, a gift store operator, and one other employee.

The UT Campus

Texas Memorial Museum is the sole science museum on The University of Texas at Austin campus, located among the LBJ Presidential Library, Briscoe Center for American History, and the Darrell K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium.

The Museum was created between 1936 and 1938 as part of the centenary anniversary of Texas’ independence from Mexico. It was founded by the Texas legislature. The Texas Memorial Museum’s Art Deco and limestone architecture, as well as its placement on the university’s main campus, make it a notable and historical landmark in Austin and throughout the state of Texas.

Texas Memorial Museum is an educational and exploratory venue that fosters a lifetime interest in the sciences and natural history.

Texas Memorial Museum History

While preparing for the 1936 Texas Centennial Celebrations, legislators and other residents discovered that Texas lacked a state museum. This was not the first time this had been observed. Faculty at The University of Texas in Austin raised the alarm in the early 1900s when East Coast institutions transported study specimens out of Texas due to a lack of collection facilities in Texas. “If a Texas student or professor of Geology needs to examine a specimen of Dimetrodon, discovered ONLY in Texas Permian beds, he would have to visit a museum in Chicago, Michigan, or the East,” stated Professor F.L. Whitney of The University of Texas in Austin in the 1920s.

In the early 1930s, James E. Pearce, Chair of Anthropology at The University of Texas at Austin and later named the museum’s first director, and A. Garland Adair, department historian for the Texas American Legion, teamed forces to build a state museum. They hoped that the museum would help to the conservation of Texas’ natural and cultural resources, as well as to the state’s educational system. Texas Memorial Museum (TMM) was born as a result of this collaborative effort. TMM was originally the state natural history museum until being transferred to The University of Texas in Austin in 1959. TMM remains dedicated to becoming a museum for all of Texas due to its dedicated staff and placement on the campus of a public institution.

Meteorite in Wichita County

In 1723, the Comanche beat the Lipan Apaches in a nine-day fight along the Rio del Fierro (Wichita River). The River of Iron may be the location written about by Athanase De Mezieres in 1772, containing “a mass of metal which the Indians say is hard, thick, heavy, and composed of iron”, which they “venerate…as an extraordinary manifestation of nature”, the Comanche’s calling it “Ta-pic-ta-carre [standing rock], Po-i-wisht-carre [standing metal], or Po-a-cat-le-pi-le-carre [medicine rock]”, the general area containing a “large number of meteoric masses”.

“According to the Indians, the mass was discovered by the Spaniards, who attempted unsuccessfully to remove it on pack mules before being forced to abandon it due to its enormous weight. The Comanches first attempted to melt the mass by building large fires around it, but were unsuccessful; they then conceived the idea that it was a wonderful medicine stone and thus worthy of their most profound regard…it was the custom of all who passed by to deposit beads, arrowheads, tobacco, and other articles as offerings.”

The Wichita County meteorite originally weighed 145 kg and was obtained by Major Robert Neighbors, US Indian agent at Fort Belknap, in 1858-1859, who presented it to the State Cabinet, and was displayed in the old Capitol building before it burned down, when this Coarse Octahedrite was turned over to the University of Texas. “When the meteorite was conveyed to the Indian reserve, the Comanches gathered in great numbers around their valued medicine stone and, while manifesting their attachment by rubbing their arms, hands, and chests over it, earnestly begged Major Neighbors to permit them to keep it at the agency,” Neighbors writes.

The Red River meteorite, weighing 742 kg, was discovered in 1808, however this Medium Octahedrite now lies in the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History.

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