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Becoming Texas: Our Story Begins Here

Exhibition exploring early inhabitants of Texas and more than 16,000 years of Texas history unveiled at Texas State History Museum



Rendering of Becoming Texas: Our Story Begins Here

The Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin, Texas, unveiled a groundbreaking and comprehensive original exhibition that utilizes the most contemporary research to reconsider when the story of Texas began. Becoming Texas: Our Story Begins Here explores more than 16,000 years of history on the land we now call Texas.

“We’re so excited to bring the history of Texas alive through this dynamic and interactive long-term exhibition,” said Bullock Museum Director Margaret Koch. “We’re very grateful to all of those who have supported the project through the years, including the citizens of Texas and our incredible Texas State History Museum Foundation, whose members worked tirelessly to find funding for this incredible experience.”

Becoming Texas begins with a small stone weapon discovered at the Gault archaeological site north of Austin in 2011 that challenges traditional ideas of when humans first arrived in the Americas. As the exhibition moves visitors through thousands of years of human habitation, they explore the seasonal lives of American Indian tribes, hear the languages of early inhabitants, touch objects created specially for the Bullock Museum by indigenous artists, and understand what it took to survive and provide food for a family in early Texas through multimedia experiences.

Turquoise armband
At least 600 years old and pre-dating Spanish settlement, archaeologists believe this armband was left purposely as an offering in the cave in which it was discovered near El Paso, along with hundreds of other items including sandals. The ancestors of today’s Puebloan people used caves as sacred spaces, and turquoise was traded along hundreds of miles of routes between tribal groups. More than 200 early American Indian mines have been identified across the Southwest. Photo courtesy Texas Archeological Research Lab.

One-of-a-kind artifacts gathered from across the country highlight the cultural interactions between American Indian groups and Europeans after their arrival in what we now call Texas. Gold and silver, rare maps, recently restored mission gates, alongside paintings and historic documents, tell of early relationships between American Indians and Spaniards. Becoming Texas also demonstrates early French ambitions in Texas, marking the first time the unique 300-year-old French shipwreck La Belle, excavated off the Texas coast, is on view alongside thousands of artifacts recovered from its hull.

The 300-year-old shipwreck La Belle
The 300-year-old shipwreck La Belle, excavated off of the Texas coast, pictured with barrels discovered along with the ship. The barrels were primarily used for storage and easy transportation ofcargo. Nearly 120,000 lead shotpieces were found packed in 27 barrels found deep in the ship’s main cargo hold. Image courtesy of Bullock Texas State History Museum.

Through early maps and documents, including the original American copy of the Adams-Onís Treaty signed by John Quincy Adams establishing the northeastern border of Texas, visitors witness the global politics and shifts in power that dramatically changed relationships between people and their environment. These artifacts combine with interactive games and an immersive landscape theater to give visitors a sense of what life on the ground was really like before we became the Texas of today. Personal accounts and artifacts telling the stories of the modern-day descendants of early Texans conclude the exhibition, connecting these early inhabitants to the generations of Texans who followed.

Santo of Saint Francis
In a time when dozens of different native languages were spoken, santos helped Spanish missionaries bridge language barriers as they attempted to convert American Indian groups to Catholicism.Roman Catholic paintings and sculptures of specific saints, the Santo tradition was brought to the Americas by the Spanish in the early 1500s.This santo of Saint Francis from the late 1700s to early 1800s, which has been conserved with support from the Bullock Museum, was used by missionaries in and around San Antonio to share the stories and lessons of the Catholic faith. Courtesy of National Park Service and the Catholic Archdiocese of San Antonio.

“Our understanding of the history of Texas is always changing with each new discovery. It’s been influenced by who records it, and what memories are passed down through generations. In this exhibition, you’ll see how the people of the past, from so many diverse cultures, often faced the same challenges we do,” said Koch. “You’ll witness the stories of tragedy, resilience, combat, and alliances that set the foundation for the state we would become. The amazing Story of Texas is a global one, a human one, and through the artifacts gathered in this gallery, we hope visitors find the stories of their ancestors.”

The Bullock Texas State History Museum includes three floors of exhibitions, IMAX® and special-effects theaters, a café and museum store. The Museum collaborates with more than 700 museums, libraries, archives and individuals to display original historical artifacts and host exhibitions that illuminate and celebrate Texas history and culture.

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january 2022