Each year, The Wichita Falls Alliance for Arts and Culture showcases the natural history, fine art, and the unique heritage of the Texoma region in one special exhibition. Participating museums are part of the Regional Museum Network, designed to increase the visibility of museums in the region. “Your Museums: Multiple Faces, Many Stories, One Passion,” will be open to the public September 4-December 4 at the Wichita Falls Museum of Art at MSU from Saturday. The Museum of Art at MSU Texas is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday from 10 am – 5 pm, Thursday from 10 am – 7 pm, and Saturday from 1 – 5 pm.
The third annual collaboration by members of the Regional Museum Network (RMN), this exhibition brings together Texoma collections, stories, and people. Objects and narratives give insight into the rich resources and quality of life offered by the museums of this region and the people who preserve these riches for future generations.
In many ways, this exhibition explores the questions, why do communities found and sustain museums, and why are objects important?
As champions of objects, museums open the door to the benefits of object-based learning. Engaging with original objects is experiential. It encourages close observation and connects the past and present. The examination of an object includes the object, the maker, and you. One of the greatest benefits is the inspiration and curiosity that occurs when you experience the powerful realization that, as you examine an object, you become connected to the person who created it.
When you really look at an object in a museum, you pay attention to another person’s expression through your senses and your knowledge, like bringing all of yourself to listen to another.
Representing the Texas counties Archer, Baylor, Clay, Montague, Wichita, Wilbarger, and Young, the collaborative and supportive Regional Museum Network of the Wichita Falls Alliance for Art and Culture encourages member organizations to grow in excellence. These are your museums!
Archer County Museum and Art Center
Archer City, TX
Jack Loftin was the main driving force behind the Archer County Museum, which began in 1975. His many interests all shared the overarching theme of history. He wrote an extensive book, “Trails Through Archer,” on the history of Archer County. He chaired the very active Archer County Historical Commission. He learned more about fossils from Paleontologist Dr. Alfred P. Romer, and led many graduate students from Germany and other countries on digs in the county. Loftin also helped in the research and preparation of many historical markers in Archer County.
When the county was only able to have two markers officially created per year, Loftin decided to create sandstone markers for historically significant places across the county. He started hand chiseling these stone markers in the 60’s, up until a few years before his passing in 2015. Loftin quickly upgraded from hand chiseling to using a handheld grinder. He used chalk to mark the inscription on the stone before cutting into it. One marker would take him a day and he would work on them out in the sun, regardless of the weather, until they were finished. Markers depicted places, events, and expeditions. Loftin’s markers are sprinkled throughout the county on highways, back roads and even private property with an estimated 300 sandstone markers in existence.
Clay County Historical Society – 1890 Jail Museum Heritage Center
Kell House Heritage Center
Wichita Falls, TX
Kell House Museum volunteers are the lifeblood that keeps the site operational. Without them, there would not be a historic house museum in Wichita Falls, Texas. From the inception of the house as a museum in 1980, those who have given of their time and expertise willingly and with passion are our most cherished and important contributors. Volunteers are both the face of the museum and perform countless anonymous tasks behind the scenes.
Museum of North Texas History
Wichita Falls, TX
Red River Valley Museum
The Red River Valley Museum can trace its origins back to 1934 when Ethel Ray was tasked with writing an essay on the “Principal Indians of the Southwest” by the local Vernon Delphian Society. Her research led her and her husband, J. Henry, to begin searching for artifacts in the Vernon area. What started out as a hobby eventually turned in to a passion for the newly married couple.
By the 1940’s the couple had established a museum in their private home at 2130 Fannin Street. Their collection had grown to hold hundreds of artifacts ranging from items used by Native American and early white settlers to fossils that can be dated back to the Permian period. Many objects they had found themselves during excursions while other additions were given to them by locals who discovered them on their private property. The collection would grow to hold thousands of fantastic artifacts that tell the history of Wilbarger county from the day of the dinosaur to present day.
Once the couple decided to retire from archaeology in the 1960s they chose to donate their findings to the City of Vernon. The City accepted the collection and displayed it in a cloak room at the local auditorium. Here it was all but forgotten about until 1975 when a vacant hospital building became the first home of the museum (2100 Cumberland). Ten years later, when William Bond donated his collection of 130 record-holding wild game trophy mounts from around the world, a 15,000 square foot modern, regional Museum was built adjacent to the Vernon College campus.
Today we have remodeled all but one exhibit. We are striving to create an engaging and educational environment that all visitors can connect to- regardless of their origins. While the RRVM focuses primarily on the history of the Vernon area we know it’s stories and people connect to the entire state of Texas and beyond. We aim to preserve and present the history entrusted to us and help all who walk through our doors find something in our story that piques their interest. We hope our exhibits can open the doors to further learning for our visitors.
Tails ‘n’ Trails Museum
Born August 3, 1882 in a log cabin on his family’s ranch five years before the birth of Nocona, Joe Benton grew as the community he was long associated with grew.
As a young man Joe developed an interest in geology, archaeology, paleontology, and history which led him to begin studying and collecting geological specimens, Native American artifacts, and historical books and documents. At the same time he was entering the business world working in banking, real estate, oil and gas production and ranching. Joe even tried his hand at writing, advertising for letters in 1910 from anyone who rode the Chisholm Trail or was instrumental in developing the West. He never finished the intended book.
Benton was very active in the development of Nocona, serving on many boards and community activities. He was very successful in his endeavors, being instrumental in developing oil production in Montague County as well as being the first to bring in registered Aberdeen Angus cattle. He and his wife, Geneva, would host many cattle sales and youth cattle judging activities on the ranch.
Over the years, Benton’s collections grew (first stored in the barn in a multitude of cigar boxes) and in 1949 he built a fireproof museum on his ranch to store his artifacts. Included were thousands of Native American pieces and European trade goods, found primarily along the nearby Red River town of Spanish Fort. He was particularly interested in the Taovayan civilization (a dominant branch of the Wichita) of that area. Benton would pay for anything found in the area and amassed what was described by one major university as the biggest collection of Native American artifacts from one geographic area. His large collection of metal arrow points led to them being named “Benton Points”.
Like Joe Benton, Tales ‘N’ Trails Museum focuses its collection and exhibits on five key areas as Montague County is not just local, not just regional, but a part of national history:
• Native American Heritage as the Spanish expansion into the Great Plains died under the arrows and spears of the Wichita, Comanche, and Kiowa at Spanish Fort;
• Western Heritage as the most renown crossing of the Red River on the Chisholm Trail, which brought meat to the dinner tables of the Midwest and Eastern United States. Red River Station lies northwest of Nocona on the Red River;
• Agriculture as Mose and Mable Johnson created the largest poultry ranch in the world in Bowie as they, too, revolutionized eating by being the first to ship day-old chicks by rail to places as far away as Mexico City;
• Leather Goods as H.J. Justin opened his first boot shop in Spanish Fort 1879, shodding drovers on the Chisholm Trail before moving to Nocona with the arrival of the railroad, resulting in spin-off businesses like Nocona Boot Company, Justin Leather Goods, and Nocona Leather Goods (now Nokona baseball gloves) which produced the first passing footballs, revolutionizing that sport;
• Oil and Gas as there are still wells producing in Montague County rapidly approaching the century mark.
Wichita Falls Museum of Art at MSU Texas
Wichita Falls, TX
Founded by visionary members of the community, the Wichita Falls Museum and Art Center opened its doors to the public on April 1, 1967. Years prior, the Junior Service League spearheaded a feasibility study to design the facility, and to raise the needed capital. The Eureka Life Insurance Company of America donated the land and the Junior Service League donated $40,000 and a pledge of $35,000 over five years to support a museum director. With the addition of private donations, the construction of the Museum was fully funded before the groundbreaking ceremony on April 12, 1966. At the time of the April 1967 opening, the museum had 560 donated objects in its collection. Originally focused on art, science, and regional history, the Museum was accredited by the American Association of Museums in 1973, and re-accredited in 1987 and 2019.
Over the years as the Museum’s art program evolved and strengthened, and the Museum became part of Midwestern State University, the mission’s primary focus became visual art. In 2001 the process began for the adjacent Midwestern State University to acquire the Museum through a donation. The transfer of ownership was finalized on July 20, 2005, and the name was changed to the Wichita Falls Museum of Art at Midwestern State University.
The Regional Museum Network and annual exhibition have been made possible in part with support from the Wichita Falls Area Community Foundation, The Summerlee Foundation, the Texas Commission on the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts.