The Museum of South Texas History

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Ascending the beautiful staircase in the Grand Lobby (or the nearby elevator), visitors discover the museum’s premier exhibition, Rio Grande Legacy. Developed as part of a $5.5 million expansion, this exhibition unfolds as a three-part walk through time, with unique artifacts and state-of-the-art multimedia, introducing ancient peoples and tools, gargantuan prehistoric fossils, Spanish colonial treasure, weaponry and battlefield relics, wars, steamboats on the Rio Grande and the early cattle kingdom. Moving back downstairs, the visitor will discover the final third of the exhibit sequence. Stepping into a replica train station complete with a hands-on telegraph key, the visitor begins to learn about the 20th century transformation of this region. From the arrival of the railroads and irrigated agriculture, to regional involvement in the wars of the 20th century and the booming postwar years, the changes that came to our region were vast.

The immersive environment creates a highly exotic experience for the visitor as sounds and music enhance viewing the area’s earliest human inhabitants, stepping up to a Colonial Spanish jacal, onto a replica steamboat or into a packing shed where vintage films promoting the region in the 1920s can be seen. Hands-on activities are sprinkled throughout the exhibit areas. The outdoor experience provides the visitor with an appreciation for our region’s ranching heritage and the interface with nature that has formed our culture. Will Looney Legacy Park features a beautiful sculpture entitled “A Texas Legacy,” by Deborah Copenhaver Fellows, a windmill and a tank with a working hand pump, a leña (rustic mesquite log) fence, a sundial and native animal tracks — all surrounded by numerous native plants. In springtime, wildflowers are in bloom throughout the complex, bringing color and appreciation for the beauty of South Texas.

Nestled next to the beauty of Will Looney Legacy Park stands the cornerstone of the museum complex — the 1910 Hidalgo County Jail. A Recorded Texas Historic Landmark, complete with a hanging tower used once in 1913, the jail is one of the most popular stops on a visit to the museum. Currently closed, the museum is working to raise funds needed for repairs to severe structural damage caused by water wicking up through the walls, known as rising damp. This $3.35 million project will renovate the facility, install exhibits, restore changing exhibit space to service and establish a $500,000 Edinburg Foundation, Inc. Endowment to maintain the museum’s facilities. Remarkable progress has been made, and over 80 percent of the goal has been reached with private, government and foundation donations. With the museum on the downhill side of this fundraising challenge, the community can help make up the difference. Once the goal is met, renovations can soon begin.

Donations from the community, year after year, have sustained and developed the museum into the treasure that awaits your visit. RGVision discovered this is the best first stop for anyone wanting to learn more about our region and its largely untold story. What many have called the Valley’s best kept secret should be secret no more.

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