She has always been interested in history – you could say it runs in her family. In the 1960s, her grandparents Argyle and Margaret McAllen decided to push forward on a project: a museum dedicated to Hidalgo County history. Their vision turned into reality, and our rgVisionary Woman shares that some of her earliest memories with her grandparents are of sitting in the archives, looking through photos and letters. The museum in Edinburg is still receiving visitors almost 50 years after it first opened, and though history doesn’t change, the McAllens would probably be surprised at how their project has evolved under their descendant’s leadership.
Stephanie Moore is the current Chairwoman of the board at the Museum of South Texas History, which she says has a focus beyond Hidalgo County: the history of Northeastern Mexico and all of South Texas. “That is who we are,” says Moore. “Our history isn’t defined by just one area. It’s defined by this whole span.” The MOSTHistory preserves the artifacts that tell the blended stories of two countries. You would be hard-pressed to find a South Texan who does not identify with the history and art contained in the MOSTHistory. “It’s really quite amazing,” she says. “This gateway of history starts right here in our backyard and travels up through Texas.”
Moore grew up in the Valley and is proud of our region, to say the least. “South Texas is very rich and inspirational for art,” she says, describing the rolling plains, wildflowers, and cattle that make up the South Texas landscape. It is also imbued with culture and history, which we are able to experience via the time capsule that is the MOSTHistory. “It’s so important to preserve our history and learn from it,” says Moore.
“Without knowing our history, we can’t move forward into our future. We have such a wonderful resource in our museum; our kids have the opportunity to experience history through hands-on learning with their family.”
Over the past 45 years, the resource has grown. “I remember the museum when it was just housed in the Historic Jail,” she says. Today, the expanded museum includes more permanent exhibits: prehistory and Spanish colonial settlement, the steamboat era, late 19th century ranching, and a tour through the 20th century. “When school groups go through, there’s something to capture the imagination of each child,” says Moore. “I can just imagine the conversations the kids are having about what they saw, and it’s not just one thing (the jail) anymore.”
A former school teacher, Moore lives to share her passion for art and history. This is what drives her to continue efforts to educate – the same passion that drove her grandmother to organize persons within the area to create a museum to serve the Rio Grande Valley. “We’re here to serve,” says Moore. “Without the community, we wouldn’t be here.” In recent years, the MOSTHistory has hosted festivals and programs like Nights at the Museum to entice more visitors to learn about their culture. “I wish my grandparents were still here to see how much the museum has grown and how many visitors come to our Ranching and Pioneer Days and Summer Nights,” says Moore.
Though she’s the chairwoman of the board, Moore is quick to share credit for the museum’s success with her team. “What I love about the museum is that I’m not alone,” says Moore. “We’re a strong working board; we all bring something to the table. We all have great ideas and we build off that. She also recognizes the museum’s super volunteer team. “The museum has cultivated multi-generations of volunteers, and that speaks to the power of the museum,” she says. “Anyone who is interested in history is encouraged to participate.”
Though the museum’s archive is named after her grandmother, Margaret H. McAllen, Moore says that many other families have contributed to the museum for generations; the MOSTHistory tells all of our stories. “I want to encourage everybody to visit the museum,” says Moore. The Museum of South Texas History in Edinburg, chaired by Stephanie Moore, is where we learn who we are and where we’re going. “It’s a place that is all of us; it’s our community.”