On my first morning in Austin I awoke to a busy day. I had this itinerary already I the works before I arrived. My dear cousin Vinny (and our beloved Beth - hey girl!) were off to work so I was too. After all my business is travel (every time I acknowledge that I get a tingle down my spine).
The first thing on my agenda was The Bullock Museum better known in town as The Story of Texas. I like that title better anyway as it is more accurate.
I knew I was in the right spot when I saw the giant thirty-five foot bronze star outside the museum. After all Texas is the Lone Star State.
The Bullock Museum opened here in the heart of Austin in 2006. It is named for Bob Bullock the former two time Lieutenant Governor and had previously held office in the Texas House of Representatives as well as the State Comptroller of Public Accounts.
Bob Bullock left a huge mark on his home state while he was State Comptroller as he was the first state official to adopt and enact a policy of equal opportunities in the workplace. Bullock hired and promoted more women and minorities than any of his predecessors.
The museum that bears his name is no less impressive. It told me the story of both Bob Bullock and Texas.
“A Texas State historian has said that the state flower, the bluebonnet, is to Texas what the shamrock is to Ireland."
The museum has three floors and tells the story of Texas from the moment it was formed until present day. I started on the first floor, proceeded to the second, saw two brief films (one about Texas history and one about the La Belle) and then stopped at their cafe for lunch. I competed my tour by visiting the third floor.
On the first floor is the newest exhibition sponsored by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It showcases many of musics greats and the objects that once belonged to them. For me the real treat was seeing Muddy Waters’ guitar. I knew that my dad would have loved to been standing where I was so I was sure to take as many photos as possible.
After sneaking a peak at the La Belle, which I would return to later, I headed towards the second floor. There I would find some of the best moments of Texas’s history.
As I wondered around it took me literally tripping over my own feet to realize the genius behind this layout. I was looking at the replica of the Alamo and the museum employees who were dressed in period appropriate clothes when I realized I wasn't only looking at the events that happened there, I was STANDING among them!
The ground I was stumbling on wasn't the typical museum's polished floor. It was the rocks, unpaved cement, and gravel that surrounds the actual San Antonio landmark. I was giddy. I love when a theme is presented in all forms. It makes history come alive and the inner child within me finds such delight in that. As you wander from one event in Texas’s long history to another this all encompassing theme would be repeated time and time again. It is no doubt one of the best qualities of this museum.
The original Goddess of Liberty that adorned the nearby Texas State Capital building from 1888-1965; is proudly displayed at The Bullock Museum as well. She is like the sister of the Statute of Liberty in NYC harbor. You can see the Goddess of Liberty from any location in the museum and at each vantage point she is an incredible sight.
Just before I headed up to the third and final floor of my self-guided tour I stopped for lunch at the in-house cafe, located on the second floor near Bob Bullock’s statute and the infamous words he stands in front of: “God Bless Texas”.
This cafe is unlike most museum cafes. For starters the food is made fresh and served in a beautifully open seated space overlooking the front of the facility. The food, I learned, is provided by a place where the name describes it all too well: “Delicious”. Delicious has its own location nearby and is responsible for the high quality foods you will enjoy here. Delicious is known for serving comfort foods with the best local ingredients. You can ask no more from any pit stop.
After my turkey club sandwich and chips I had the energy to head upstairs. Here you will see the impact the oil industry had/has on Texas, all to do about the space program, as well as the movers and shakers of this state.
Despite the La Belle’s location on the first floor I have saved my this part of my review for last because it was my favorite. I was captivated by the story of its voyage, discovery, and place in Texas history. In fact I paid this exhibit a visit twice; once when I first arrived and then once again on my way out. I wanted to be sure I saw absorbed every bit of it.
The film I had just seen was a great way to learn all of the details about the artifacts that awaited me.
La Belle was a French ship that departed France in 1684 and headed toward North America. The captain of the ship, René-Robert Cavelier, wanted to travel to the Gulf Coast and form his own colony in Mississippi. There were four ships and over four hundred passengers on this journey. Sadly this voyage did not go as planned, to say the least. The last remaining ship sank in 1686 due to a storm and remained where it lay until archeologists discovered it in 1995. Upon discovery of the ship, over a million artifacts were found in the condition in which they were last used. When you see the tools, utensils, and personal belongings of those who perished you are reminded that this wasn't only a story from our collective past but rather a story of individuals who suffered a great tragedy on the way to what they thought would be a better life.
The hardship that encompasses our past is not something The Bullock Museum ignores at any turn. There are stories of what happened to the American Indians as Texas was taken over by those new to this country, The Civil War, as well as the K.K.K. artifacts and stories are on display.
In upcoming news, there is a planned expansion of this museum scheduled for 2018. The Bullock Museum has plans to update the first floor layout to show Texas long before it was apart of the union and the people that made it what it would become. I look forward to coming back and touring this institution as if it were the first time.
The Bullock Museum is an engaging place for visitors where they learn the true, historical accounts that tell the complete Story of Texas.
To see where I went next, keep on reading.
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