Named after former Texas Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock, a key supporter in the establishment of the museum, the $80 million project was funded through the state legislature and broke ground in 1999. The new museum finally opened its doors on April 21, 2001. Not coincidentally, that day marked the 165th anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto, the final battle of the Texas Revolution in which Texas was victorious in earning its independence from Mexico.
According to its website, the stated mission of the Bullock Texas State History Museum is to engage the “broadest possible audience to interpret the continually unfolding ‘Story of Texas’ through meaningful educational experiences.” To achieve this goal, the museum is comprised of three floors, each providing visitors with an interactive experience based around a certain theme. The first floor is based on the theme “Land”. Through artifacts including weapons, pottery, clothing, and jewelry dating back as far as 4,000 years ago, you will learn about the people of Texas – from Native Americans, French and Spanish settlers, to the present Texans.
On the “Identity” themed second floor, explore how the “Lone Star identity was built through two centuries of conflict and compromise.” This political and people’s history is seen through hand-written letters, a cottonclad gunboat, and the “Goddess of Liberty” among other artifacts.
When you reach the third floor, you’ll be greeted by the theme of “Opportunity.” Here, you will explore the scientific, industrial, and economic history of Texas. From cowboys to astronauts, barbed wire to oil, you’ll enjoy the exhibits many interactive learning tools.
In addition to these three floors, the Bullock Texas State History Museum also hosts a number of specialty exhibits which are open for specified periods of time. Often held in the museum’s third floor rotunda gallery, some of these exhibits have included Battleship TEXAS, Women Shaping Texas in the 20th Century, Texas High School Football: More than the Game, and Dallas: Power & Passion on Primetime TV. These specialty exhibits are included in your price of admission.
You’ve certainly heard the phrase “everything’s bigger in Texas,” and the Bullock Texas State History Museum doesn’t disappoint in its grandeur. In addition to the exhibits mentioned above, the museum is also home to several other attractions. You’ll find that it is hard to miss the 35-foot tall bronze star sculpture that greets you on your way into the museum. The star is not only one of the museum’s most iconic images, but it is also one of the most photographed images in all of Austin. The museum also boasts 2 theaters. The 200-seat “Spirit Theater” is located on the second floor of the museum. Here, you will enjoy the feature presentation The Star of Destiny, an epic tale of the history of Texas filled with memorable (and sometimes seat-shaking) special effects. The museum is also home to Austin’s premiere 400-seat IMAX theater, where you’ll find the latest releases in both 2-D and 3-D IMAX.
The Bullock Texas State History Museum has something history lovers and pop culture junkies alike. If you’ll be staying in Austin, make sure to stop in and check it out! You won’t regret it.