Only a month since its opening, Galveston’s newest attraction is becoming a popular island destination. Through its collection including rare documents, artifacts and art, the world-class Bryan Museum offers visitors a glimpse of what helped shaped the history of Texas and the Southwest.
“We’re very pleased with our attendance so far,” says Mary Jo Naschke, the museum’s public relations and marketing representative. “The minute we open at 11, there are people waiting outside for a tour. We haven’t had a slow day yet.”
“Everybody’s very pleased and pleasantly surprised – it’s more than we’ve anticipated,” adds Naschke. “I think the quality of the museum, according to many who have come in, is more than they expected in a city the size of Galveston.”
The museum’s extensive collection has 70,000 items spanning more than 2,500 years, with artifacts from the pre-Columbian period to the present. Treasures range from Native American cultural artifacts dating back to antiquity, to 21st century items, including documents in several languages, saddles, spurs, antique firearms, western clothing, rare books and maps, to name just a few of the categories. Art includes religious and folk art to fine art and portraits.
In addition to its permanent collection, the museum opened to the public with a special temporary exhibit, “The Buffalo Soldiers,” to celebrate the Juneteenth holiday. The African-American regiments were formed just after the Civil War. The exhibit runs through the end of September.
“The exhibit not only shows their uniforms but also highlights the history and the heritage of those soldiers,” says Naschke. “People are surprised because there’s not a lot of information on Buffalo Soldiers, and the whole mission of the Bryan Museum is to educate and provide historical facts.”
With the world’s largest collection of Southwest related historical artifacts, artwork and documents, the Bryan Museum stems from the lifetime collection of Mary Jon and J.P. Bryan. According to the museum’s website, J.P. Bryan is a lifelong historian, Texas history enthusiast and descendant of Moses Austin, Stephen F. Austin’s father.
Highlights of the collection include the sword of soldier and Texas legislator Joel Robison who aided in the capture of Mexican General Santa Anna after the 1836 Battle of San Jacinto, and an original correspondence from Texas area pirate Jean Lafitte. There’s also a large gun collection including an original Smith & Wesson and James Bowie knife.
Since opening on June 14th, docents are leading tours as staff continue to tweak programs on I-Pads that will add details and help guide visitors through exhibits.
The Bryan Museum at 1315 21st St. is housed in the former Galveston Orphans Home, an island landmark. Hours run Friday through Monday, from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and members of the military, $4 for ages 6-12 and free for children under 6. Group rates and memberships are available, with group tours arranged by appointment.