Collectors' Gallery

Collections from private collectors in Texas

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Private collectors are integral to the preservation of history. Their dedication to collecting historical maps, documents, artifacts, and works of art ensures that the material evidence of the past is safeguarded for future generations. The Collectors' Gallery showcases the passion behind privately owned collections in Texas, featuring some of the finest treasures in the state.

The Texas Museum of Military History Collection is owned by Sam Nesmith of San Antonio, Texas, and consists of objects related to military history from around the world. It includes uniforms, headgear,  edged weapons, firearms, medieval armor, books, patches, and other insignia.

When Mr. Nesmith was 14 years old, an opportunity to collect objects related to the German military put Nesmith on the path to becoming a military historian and collector. Today, the oldest object in the collection is a Babylonian dagger made 5,500 years ago. His personal favorites, much of which he has chosen to display at the Bullock Museum, are the British uniforms, objects related to the U.S. Indian Scouts, and items that belonged to Pvt. Charles Pelham of the 8th Texas Cavalry.

Mr. Nesmith turned his early desire to preserve the past into a lifelong passion and career. He studied archaeology and anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin, focusing on military history. For the last 60 years, he has been a curator and researcher, working at the Texas Memorial Museum, the Alamo, and the Institute of Texan Cultures before becoming the director and curator of the Texas Museum of Military History. Mr. Nesmith has also worked on archaeological projects with the University of Texas at San Antonio and the Center of Archaeological Research, including seven excavations at Alamo Plaza. In addition, he's authored or co-authored numerous publications and books on Texas and Spanish Colonial era archaeology and history.

Select Artifacts On View in the Exhibition

Past Installations

The Bryan Collection: November 25, 2016 to June 25, 2017

The Bryan Collection, owned by J. P. Bryan, is one of the world’s largest collections of historical artifacts, documents, and artwork relating to Texas and the American West. It spans more than 12,000 years, from ancient Native American cultural artifacts to pieces from the 21st century. With approximately 70,000 items in total, the collection includes 20,000 rare books, more than 30,000 documents in Spanish, German, French, and English, three dozen saddles, over 250 antique firearms, several hundred spurs, exceedingly rare maps, the works of Texas craftsmen, and a large collection of fine art, religious art, and folk art.

The Nau Civil War Collection: July 1, 2017 to February 4, 2018

The Nau Civil War Collection, owned by John L. Nau, III of Houston, Texas, is one of the largest private collections of Civil War documents, photographs, weapons, and artifacts in the country. The collection contains items related to all aspects of the war, Union and Confederate. Mr. Nau has been interested in the Civil War since childhood and began collecting at an early age. Over the past 15 years, he expanded the collection significantly as he became more interested in the personal stories of soldiers and preserving these pieces of the past for future generations.

Support for the Bullock Museum's exhibitions and education programs is provided by the Texas State History Museum Foundation.