Museums That Tell The El Paso Story
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Museums That Tell The El Paso Story

Designated an All-American City in 2010, and immortalized in two songs by the Country Music Hall of Fame Legend Marty Robbins, El Paso's rich history can be traced back to Prehistoric times, however, it is the town's myriad of museums ranging from history, art, and firefighting to the National Border Patrol, that tell the real El Paso story.

El Paso:

Designated an All-American City in 2010, and immortalized in two songs by the Country Music Hall of Fame Legend Marty Robbins, El Paso is found on the banks of the Rio Grande river, at the foot of the Franklin Mountains that almost divide the city into two sections, in the farthest western portion of the state of Texas, with the fertile Mesilla Valley, and its bosque and cottonwood forests, just west of town.

Artifacts from the earliest inhabitants of the region that became known as El Paso include chipped stone projectile points found at the high altitude desert basin known as the Hueco Tanks, that are believed to have come from the Folsom Tradition of the Paleo-Indian culture reported to have lived in the area between 9000BC - 8000BC.  Other early people that have resided in the area include the Manso Indians, the Suma Indians, the Jumano Indians, the mixed-race Mestizos that were mostly of European-American and Latin-American descent, the Comancheria Comanche Indians, various ethnic group Genizaro Indian slaves that were known as Coyotes, Mescalero Apache Indians, Spanish Conquistadores, Spanish Explorers who left most of the area undeveloped, and Mexicans, with the United States obtaining all of Texas under the 1844 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the Compromise of 1850.

El Paso began as an 1854 military fort known as the Post Opposite El Paso, with the Coons Rancho settlement called Franklin becoming the town's center point.  A year later a United States Army Officer named Anson Mills completed his plans for the city calling it El Paso, and the town was incorporated in 1873.

Becoming famously known as the "Six Shooter Capital" early El Paso remained a wild and violent boomtown full of prostitution, gambling, and various other forms of lawlessness until World War One, when the Department of the Army cracked down on it, turning the town into a bustling and premiere transportation, manufacturing, and retail center for the Southwest.  Mining, especially copper, oil, and other natural resources, as well as railroads, also became exploding industries for El Paso.

Standing 3,800 feet tall the hot desert climate of El Paso receives an average of 302 days of sunshine every year earning the town its "The Sun City" moniker, however, the home of the historic Plaza Theatre, one of the city's most famous landmarks, the Abraham Chavez Theatre, with its unique sombrero-shaped architecture, the ninety acre McKelligan Canyon Park in the Franklin Mountains, the fifty-five acre Chamizal National Monument that settled a 100 year old border dispute between the United States and Mexico, the Franklin Mountains State Park, the 1914-built Cathedral Parish of Saint Patrick, the 1875-built Magoffin Home State Historic Site that is found on the National Register of Historic Places, the El Paso Union Depot that is also on the National Register of Historic Places, the 1682-built Ysleta Mission, the oldest mission in Texas, the 1,700 square mile, and second largest Army Post in the United States, known as Fort Bliss, and the El Paso Zoo, is also wellknown for its wind, dust, snow storms, intense Summer monsoons, and floods.

Still it is the museums that tell the real story of El Paso including the following ones:

Centennial Museum and Chihuahuan Desert Gardens:

Established in 1936, and located on the University of Texas at El Paso campus, the cultural and natural history focus of the Centennial Museum are based on the geology, paleontology, archaeology, and ethnology of Mexico and the Southwestern United States.  The museum also contains a wellknown Cacas Grandes Pre-Columbian pottery collection, a Laboratory for Environmental Biology Research component, and its famous Chichuahuan Desert Gardens, with more than six hundred species of plants native to the region, arranged in a series of themed gardens.  Annual events of the museum include its FloraFEST and SunSCAPE presentations of native plants and its border life exhibits, with its Raramuri, The Foot Runners of the Sierra Madre exhibit, and its Nuestra Casa exhibit featuring Damien Schumann new for 2012.

El Paso Museum of Archaeology:

Located on Transamerica Road, at the base of the Franklin Mountains, the El Paso Museum of Archaeology is dedicated to the antropological preservation of artifacts associated with the prehistory of the El Paso region pertaining to the Cacas Grandes, Anasazi, Mogollon, Pueblo, Tarahumara, and Athabaskan Indian cultures, as well as several pieces from the Mesoamerica areas of Mexico.  Popular exhibits displayed at the museum include the Watercolor Paintings of Rock Art at Hueco Tanks exhibit, the Ancient Mexico exhibit, and the Forrest Kirkland Biography exhibit.  The museum also provides fifteen acres of nature trails and a desert garden full of more than 250 species of native plants.

Lynx Exhibits Museum:

Currently featuring the Science of Super Croc exhibit, and found on West Overland Avenue, the small, privately owned Lynx Exhibits Museum offers Traveling Exhibits of the history and culture of the El Paso area, that are displayed in the El Paso Artisian Gallery, and change every three months.

El Paso Holocaust Museum and Study Center:

Located on North Oregon Street in downtown El Paso, and a memorial to the millions of Jews murdered by Adolph Hitler and the Nazis, the El Paso Holocaust Museum and Study Center possesses several multi-media galleries including The Rise of the Nazi Party, Life in Europe Before the Nazi Holocaust, Kristallnacht:  Life in the Ghettos, The Use of Nazi Propaganda, Life and Death in Nazi Concentration Camps, Transportation by Railcars to the Camps, the Righteous Among the Nations: A Memorial and Reflection Room, Liberation by the Allied Forces, and a gallery of El Paso Holocaust Survivors.  The museum also features the Robert and Sara Shiloff Library and Study Center with thousands of Holocaust related books.

El Paso Museum of Art:

Famous for its fifty-seven piece Samuel H. Kress 12th to 18th Century European Art Collection, North American art works, Contemporary Southwestern United States art works, Colonial Mexican art works, Pre-Columbian art works, Nineteenth Century art works, and mid-Twentieth Century art works, the El Paso Museum of Art is located on One Arts Festival Plaza, and currently features the Magnificent Mexico:  20th Century Modern Masterworks exhibit, the Magnitud Mexicana:  Visions of Art exhibit, the Dibujos Divinos:  20th Century Drawings exhibit, the Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil exhibit, the Hal Marcus Four Seasons exhibit, the Margarita Cabrera exhibit, the Our Lady of Refuge of Sinners exhibit, and the Working the Lines:  Photographs by David Taylor exhibit.

Gene Roddenberry Planetarium:

Honoring one of El Paso's most famous personalities, and the Creator of the Star Trek and Star Trek:  The Next Generation science fiction series, the Pretty Maids All In A Row and Planet Earth shows, and a scriptwriter for the Have Gun, Will Travel and Highway Patrol series, the Gene Roddenberry Planetarium features lasar, film, video, and special effects projectors that travel visitors to the far reaches of outer space.

El Paso Museum of History:

Originally known as the El Paso Cavalry Musuem, and containing permanent exhibits of medieval and renossance art, the El Paso History Museum collects artifacts from the late 1500s Spanish expeditions to the area that became El Paso, up to current pieces detailing the city's history in shawls, fans, typewriters, lace, carpentry tools, blacksmithing tools, saddlemaking tools, glass bottles, and western bootmaking tools, but little in the way of archival collections.  The museum also features a History of the Motorcycle exhibit, and a Pass of the North exhibit about the multinational history of the border region.

Fort Bliss Museum and Study Center:

Found on the second largest Army installation in the United States the Fort Bliss Museum and Study Center displays, interprets, preserves, and collects artifacts, vehicles, and weapons from 1848 to the present that tell the history of the missile and air defenses of America through its many exhibits, with Old Fort Bliss, the first fort in El Paso, nearby.

Railroad and Transportation Museum of El Paso:

Found on West San Antonio Street, and featuring the historic 1857-built Locomotive Number One of the El Paso and Southwestern Railroad Company that hauled mill supplies, mining supplies, timber, and coal in and out of El Paso between 1889 and 1903, the Railroad and Transportation Museum of El Paso also contains exhibits relating to urban transit, 1880s-constructed mule cars, 20th Century electric streetcars, the Second Transcontinental Railroad, and the use of railroads during wartimes.

Insights El Paso Science Museum:

Geared to the youth of El Paso the hands-on Insights El Paso Science Museum, found on North Santa Fe, provides a centrifugal force spinner exhibit, optical illusion exhibits, electricity exhibits, magnetism exhibits, a Tulsa Coil Exhibit, a "To The Ends Of The Earth:  UTEP AT The Poles" exhibit that highlights an expedition students from that university took to the Artic and Antartica, and several Traveling Exhibits including their currently displayed Playing Together Games exhibit and their Toolville exhibit.

El Paso Firefighters Museum:

Located at the fire station on Montana Avenue the small El Paso Firefighters Museum provides two unique vehicles on display, a 1930 American La France Fire Engine, and a rare 1898 American Fire Company Steamer, that is one of only two left in the world, as well as other firefighting exhibits that are found at one of the earliest created fire departments west of the Mississippi River.

International Museum of Art:

Located in the Turney Mansion on Montana Avenue the International Museum of Art provides various exhibits on the Mexican Revolution, Africa, and Asia, as well as a replica of Pancho Villa's death mask.  The museum also displays the A Retrospective By Artist Pedro Rios Martinez exhibit and unique art work by Gabriel Gaytan that is shown in 3D glasses and known as 3D:  Design, Depict, Devise.

UTEP Heritage House:

Located at the corner of Kerby and Randolph Streets on the campus of the University of Texas at El Paso the Heritage House Museum displayes the school's history including the Golden Grads exhibit of students who graduated from the college at least fifty years ago, the Glory Road exhibit of the school's 1966 NCAA Basketball Championship Team, and mining and engineering drawing equipment displays, as well as an unusual assortment of banners, photographs, school regalia, ceremonial maces, freshmen beanies, and other paraphernalia representing the school.

Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center For The Visual Arts:

Located behind the Sun Bowl Stadium on the campus of the University of Texas at El Paso the Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts displays contemporary exhibits, and is currently showing the UTEP Department of Art Biennial Faculty Exhibition, sculptures, large scale art works, and towering ceramic pillars in three distinct galleries.

National Border Patrol Museum:

Found on Woodrow Bean Transmountain Drive the National Border Patrol Museum displays various artifacts that illustrate the Border Patrol and its history, vehicles, weapons, helicopters, photographs, patriotic articles, uniforms, airplanes, boats, dogs, and badges, as well as an art gallery, and several depictions of how Illegal Immigrants attempt to cross the border between the United States and Mexico.

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