Texas History Galleries

Immerse yourself in the Story of Texas

With three floors of expansive exhibition space showcasing more than 700 original artifacts, discover an ever-changing experience in the Texas History Galleries. New artifacts are continually added, bringing new stories to the Museum each week. 

First Floor Gallery

The story of the 17th century French shipwreck La Belle is one of the most significant events in Texas history. The ship's hull is at the center of the Museum's first-floor exhibition La Belle: The Ship That Changed History.

A short film at the entrance of the exhibition provides an overview of explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle's ambitious North American voyage in 1684, and the consequences of the doomed expedition to establish a colony at the mouth of the Mississippi River. An outstanding collection of artifacts found aboard the ship, discovered when it was excavated in the mid-1990s, as well as maps, images, and interpretative panels provide insight into the needs of a new colony, revealing details about the personal lives of the men, women, and children who sailed with La Salle. A scale model of La Belle, as it would have looked when first constructed, and unique touchpad interactives invite visitors to explore the ship and its cargo.

For fantastic views of the excavated and preserved timbers now re-assembled in the gallery, look down from the Museum's second or third floor balconies into the hull, or examine the ship up close on the first floor level. Look for the roman numerals carved into the timbers by the original ship-builders, identifying where each timber went during La Belle's assembly. Experience the ground-breaking conservation efforts that preserved La Belle through large-format projected footage from the ship's 1996 excavation in Matagorda Bay, Texas, and a mini-documentary that highlights conservation treatment methods. Don't miss the accompanying multi-sensory film Shipwrecked, showing daily in the Texas Spirit Theater, which shares the true story of the expedition through the eyes of 14 year old Pierre Talon, who was among only a handful of survivors from La Salle's expedition.

Second Floor Gallery

Through artifacts, documents, and films, the second floor gallery explores Texas history from 1821 to 1936. Discover the personal stories and the people, places, and events that shaped the state as Texas moved through revolution, annexation, immigration, the economics and human cost of slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the Depression-era extravagance that highlighted the state's 100th birthday. In this gallery, hear narrator Captain Juan Seguín give an eyewitness account of the revolution from the battle of Gonzales to the fall of the Alamo in the Revolution Theater. See how Texas transitioned from an independent nation to the 28th state in the Union. Explore how a clothes iron with a bell in the base and a Wilson stoneware 8-gallon jug tell the complex stories of African Americans in 19th century Texas. Ride the Texas plains with the Comanche. Then sit back in the Centennial Theater and enjoy historic footage of the 1936 exposition that showcased Texas's western identity and bold, new capabilities.

Third Floor Gallery

From ranching artifacts with Tejano roots to oil field drill bits to Civil Rights-era documents to music with unique Texas sensibilities, the third floor gallery captures the excitement of Texas's emergence onto the national stage in the 20th century. In this gallery, explore the Texas cattle stories told by a Mother Hubbard saddle and the “running W" King Ranch branding iron. Find out why an oil field tool developed by Howard Hughes, Sr. is called a "Christmas tree." Get a close-up view of the AT-6 "Texan," the World War II advanced flight trainer airplane that helped the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) fly into history. Spend a few minutes listening to Texas tunes from artists such as T. Bone Walker, Van Cliburn, Buddy Holly, and Lydia Mendoza. Visit the Austin City Limits Theater for a large-screen concert experience featuring film clips from the iconic television series. Imagine you are monitoring spacecraft and astronauts on an original 1960s NASA Mission Control console. Travel through time and geography via the postcard wall, an exhibition of hundreds of postcards from across the years and across the state of Texas. Finish your tour through the Texas History Galleries with a stop at the Texas Story Project exhibition, featuring artifacts and videos from the Museum's digital archive project connecting Texas's past, present, and future.