Spotlight on the Best Museums in Austin

Spotlight on the Best Museums in Austin

Austin boasts an impressive array of museums, covering everything from local history to armed forces to international collections. We explore some of the finest museums Austin has to offer.

The Mexic-Arte Museum

Artists Pio Pulido, Sam Coronado, and Sylvia Orozco founded the Mexic-Arte Museum in 1984. Since its inaugural Day of the Dead festival, the pioneering Austin arts institution has hosted programs and events designed to bring the culture and art of Mexico to Austin. Today, the Mexic-Arte Museum presents work from upcoming and established artists from Mexico, the United States, and Latin America.

Texas Military Forces Museum

This museum covers the history of volunteer forces and the state’s militia from 1823 to 1903. Exhibits covering 1903 to today tell tales of the Air National Guard, Texas Army, and State Guard, both in peace and at war.

On display are personnel carriers, tanks, helicopters, jet fighters, and armories. The museum incorporates full-scale environments and dioramas, recreating scenes from the Mexican War, the Indian Frontier, and the Philippine-American and Spanish-American Wars.

Pioneer Farms

Pioneer Farms is a celebration of the state’s rich, colorful past, featuring walking tours through six distinct historic areas:

  1. A Tonkawa encampment (1841)
  2. The Walnut Creek greenbelt (1853)
  3. A German immigrant farm (1868)
  4. A Texian farm (1873)
  5. A cotton planter’s farm (1887)
  6. A Sprinkle Corner rural village (1899)

Set in 90 acres of woodland, Pioneer Farms offers a memorable day out for the whole family, including a petting zoo at Scarborough Barn.

The LBJ Presidential Library

Lyndon Baines Johnson, born in central Texas in 1908, served as America’s 36th president from November 22, 1963, following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, until January 20, 1969.

Johnson commissioned the library to protect and preserve historic collections and make them readily accessible to the people of Texas. In the spirit of transparency, Johnson’s aim was to make all administration records available for public inspection so that the public could decide his place in history.

The 30-acre museum site lies within the University of Texas campus. The LBJ Presidential Library houses 5,000 hours of recordings from Johnson’s term in office, including approximately 643 hours of telephone conversations. The iconic 10-story building also exhibits over 650,000 photographs and 45 million pages of historical documents.

Museum of the Weird

Located in the Sixth Street entertainment district, at the back of a curiosity shop, the Museum of the Weird is surely Austin’s most mysterious attraction.

In 2005 Steve and Veronica Busti founded the Lucky Lizard Curios & Gifts store, named after their pet lizards housed in a giant terrarium at the back of the store. Soon people came from all over Texas just to see the lizards, Torgo the Nile Monitor and Simone the Iguana.

The Bustis quickly expanded their venture to include a range of unusual exhibits such as Fiji mermaids, suits of armor, and shrunken heads. Today, the Museum of the Weird draws tens of thousands of visitors each year, and is one of the last remaining dime museums in the United States.

Austin Toy Museum

Austin Toy Museum, located on East Cesar Chavez Street, features dolls, action figures, arcade games, merchandise, comic books, and children’s toys dating from the 1980s all the way back to the early 1900s.

The museum houses many rare items, including action figure prototypes acquired from some of history’s biggest toy manufacturers. The Austin Toy Museum also features an impressive array of video game consoles, from Nintendo to Atari. With more than 40,000 pieces, the museum rotates items to display so that visitors will never see the same exhibits twice!

The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum

The Bullock Museum takes visitors to the very heart of Texas, offering a tantalizing glimpse of Texas history. Incorporating a wealth of artifacts spanning 4,000 years, the museum has hosted more than 50 unique exhibitions since it opened in 2001.

The museum’s exhibits were recently overhauled to include a second gallery housing an impressive collection of artifacts dedicated to the Comanche, Apache, Caddo, and Tonkawa tribes, in a celebration of Native American history and culture.

The Harry Ransom Center

The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas Austin is an internationally acclaimed museum that draws visitors from all over the world. Guided tours are available, offering expert insight into unique exhibition pieces, such as the Gutenberg Bible, the first book printed in the West in movable metal type.

Exhibit highlights include Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s Lilith, a colored chalk on paper dating back to 1867, as well as the oldest-known surviving photograph, taken in 1826, capturing a landscape in Burgundy, France.

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