The student-run newspaper of the Liberal Arts and Science Academy

The Liberator

The student-run newspaper of the Liberal Arts and Science Academy

The Liberator

The student-run newspaper of the Liberal Arts and Science Academy

The Liberator

Austin Museums Make A Mark

Austin is a city with a vibrant collection of museums, from the Bob Bullock to the Harry Ransom Center. With art museums, history museums, and more, Austin’s diverse collection has always been a part of many students’ lives, from field trips to personal visits.

Kaitlyn Zaldana is the Special Events and Marketing and PR Coordinator at the Mexic-Arte Museum, a downtown art museum that highlights Latin American art and artists. Zaldana talked about the museum and its extensive collection of art and important collections.

“Mexic-Arte has been building a permanent collection for the past 40 years,” Zaldana said. “Our collection features over 4,000 works of historic and contemporary Mexican/Latin American art. We have rotating exhibitions throughout the year that showcase and highlight different aspects of our collection. Some of our artists are from Austin, Mexico, and other places around the world.”

The Mexic-Arte Museum has a collection of historic and contemporary artworks that highlight culture in Austin through its events. For instance, its Día De Los Muertos parade is a vibrant celebration paired with the museum’s annual exhibition on the subject.

“We feature lots of print artists and canvas paintings, and depending on the exhibition, we will feature large mixed media installations,” Zaldana said. “For example, for our Day of the Dead exhibit this past year, we had paintings, prints, and ofrendas (altars).”

Another well-known museum in Austin is the University of Texas’s Harry Ransom Center, which has a widespread collection of artifacts representing thousands of years of history. Alyssa Morris, the Communications and Marketing Manager at the Harry Ransom Center, discussed some of the most important and interesting pieces on display.

 “The Harry Ransom Center is kind of unique in that we have a huge collection,” Morris said. “We have about 49 million items in our collection. But the things that are always on display are the Gutenberg Bible. We have a complete copy. It’s one of 20 copies in the whole world that survive intact.”

The Harry Ransom Center has a wide variety of objects besides artifacts, however, according to Morris. The collection includes some highly famous pieces of art that are constantly on display.

“We also have a Frida Kahlo painting that’s always on display,” Morris said. “It’s called Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, and it’s considered one of her best works, incredibly detailed and beautiful.”

With its UT campus location and academic catalog, the museum may seem directed to older students and adults. However, the Harry Ransom Center has taken strides to include younger students as well, according to Morris.

“We’ve been creating family guides to all of our recent exhibitions that provide activities for kids so that they can engage with the content, even if sometimes it’s more scholarly or academic,” Morris said.

The Bullock Texas State History Museum highlights Texas’s history, attracting many visitors throughout the year. During the last fiscal year, the museum had 28,172 students visit on a field trip, with 10,860 more participating in a distance learning program, according to Lindsay Muncy, the Public Relations Specialist at the Bullock Museum. Muncy talked about the vital role the museum has played for the public and the engaging environment it has created for visitors over the years.

“Since its opening in 2001, the Bullock Museum has been the official history museum of the state of Texas and was established for the purpose of educating and engaging visitors and students in the history of the Lone Star State,” Muncy said. “Thousands of school children visit every year on field trips that expand on their learning in the classroom. Being a few blocks from the Capitol, the museum is also a staple for tourists, and we see visitors from all over the world every day.”

Despite its long history, the Bullock Museum still works to improve its exhibitions and visitor experience as Austin becomes more diverse. Muncy detailed some of the museum’s new measures to become more inclusive for all visitors and learners.

“We recently completed a years-long initiative to make all of our three floors of Texas History Galleries bilingual in Spanish and English, and we will continue to make other areas and Museum materials bilingual in the coming years,” Muncy said. “In 2018, the Museum’s first floor Texas History Gallery was completely renovated and reopened as Becoming Texas, which explores the history of the land we now call Texas and expanded the timeline of history the Museum covers to as far back as 16,000 years ago.”

The Bullock’s new innovations have also updated the ways the museum highlights Texas history, taking account of historical injustices and prejudices. Muncy explained how this was changed through the addition of a new section to the Bullock Museum.

“We’ve also added an equal rights section that highlights the ways Texans have and continue to fight for equal rights,” Muncy said. “[We] completely renovated the gallery exploring the history of oil and gas in Texas, and we continue to develop new programs for families and distance learning opportunities for students.”

All museums were monumentally affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, making it vitally important to attend and visit Austin’s museums. According to Muncy, many museums have begun to bounce back from their pandemic-era struggles with renewed support and attendance.

“Museums continue to play an important part in communities, including our own,” Muncy said. “Even during the pandemic, when we were closed for several months, our members continued supporting us and we were able to engage visitors and the community in different ways by providing virtual programming and online resources. Based on post-pandemic research and analysis in the museum field, we’ve seen that trust in museums has grown in recent years, and visitation numbers continue to rebound.”

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