Monday, July 11, 2011

Texas Civil War Museum - Part IV - Parting Thoughts

As an end to my recent 3-part series of photos from my visit to the Texas Civil War Museum near Fort Worth, I wanted to end with just a few parting thoughts about the Museum...

I guess the questions comes down to: how do you "grade" a museum and a museum experience? Surely, everyone has their own criteria, and I'm not even sure what my own criteria are.

The bricks-and-mortar Texas Civil War Museum was in a nice, modern building...well-lit...the artifacts on display were well-marked and of an excellent variety and appeared to be under very good stewardship. The admission fee is very reasonable [$6 adults/$3 children U12 (U6 is free)].

Therefore, as a "cabinet of curiosities" I give it an unabashed "A"...I saw things in the Museum I had never seen "close up" before and that is always a treat...of course, I would have liked to have seen more medical items from the Civil War, but that's just me...the flag collection at the Museum is just astounding...and there is a very even distribution between Union and CSA artifacts. The Museum itself seems apolitical.

But shouldn't a museum be just more than a "cabinet of curiosities"? In this regard, I think the Texas Civil War Museum falls short...there is no "narrative" and - more important - precious little interpretation in the Museum. On the Museum website and in their social media postings, they state that the "let the artifacts speak for themselves" but this seems a bit of a non sequitur.

To be fair, the Museum sees its mission as place to share and preserve the wonderful collection of the Richey family and the UDC's Texas Confederate collection, and I suppose they fulfill that mission admirably.

However, I was surprised and disheartened to see very little mention - if any at all - of slavery in Texas or the United States in the Civil War, and no artifacts.

That said, for the quality of the collection, I highly recommend a visit to the Texas Civil War Museum.

I would certainly like to hear how other people evaluate museums!


Richard said...

Good question and subject. I don't know how to answer it, but I'm going to share this column with some of my colleagues at the museum where I volunteer just as "food for thought."

I guess that as a museum volunteer, I try to look kindly at other museums and try to see how they are displaying stuff (tacked to the walls, glued, etc.) and some details like that or how they label items, etc. but I'm not sure I've ever tried to "grade" a museum. It's usually just how much I enjoy it personally though I do think my experience gives me a bit of a different view.

Jim Schmidt said...

Richard -

Thanks so much for the comment. I admire you so much for the work you do at the Ramage Museum and respect your opinion all the more for it. I'm usually not so "judgemental" when it comes to musuems, because, well...I love 'em...I mean, I've been to a "Barbed Wire Museum" - and I'm not joking!

I guess I just don't like places that basically say "here's a bunch of stuff...if you want to see it, it'll be sox dollars"...I mean the stuff was GREAT...really GREAT...but I guess I just expected more.

All I know is this:

I want to have a museum when I grow up!

You're the best!