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Permanent Exhibits

 
 
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Our permanent exhibits include Fine Art, Firearms, Geology, Paleontology, People of the Plains, Petroleum and Natural Gas, Pioneer Hall, Pioneer Town, Transportation and Windmills. Trained docents can lead your students on a fun and educational tour of these areas, or you may choose to utilize our My Museum Journals and lead the students yourself.
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Fine Art

Since the first acquisitions in 1933, the art collection has grown to some 8,000 art objects. PPHM holds the finest Southwestern American art collection between Fort Worth and Santa Fe, reflecting collecting taste in the Panhandle-Plains region. Both the Santa Fe and Taos art colonies are well represented, and the museum has the most comprehensive historic Texas art collection in the state. Galleries feature the permanent collection in five subject areas: Texas artists Frank Reaugh, “the Dean of Texas Artists”; H. D. Bugbee, “the Charlie Russell of Texas”; Texas, pre-1950; Southwestern, mainly New Mexico and Western illustrators; and Graphics, Southwestern prints and drawings.


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Firearms

Firearms are integral to the history and settlement of the Texas Panhandle frontier. The permanent exhibit reflects the core collection of more than 1,000 pieces dating from the 15th century through the 20th century. Among the prize firearms in the collection are a Winchester Model 1873 owned by Comanche leader Quanah Parker and Charles Goodnight’s plains rifle.


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Geology

The ground under your feet

How do you pronounce “Ogallala Aquifer” and why is it important? Why were the Alibates Flint Quarries such a vital destination for native cultures? And where in the world are the Amarillo Mountains? (Surely not anywhere near the flat Texas Panhandle…right?)

These are just a few of the questions answered in our permanent Geology exhibit. Much of history takes place above ground—but not all of it. An understanding of geology helped farmers irrigate their crops, helped oilmen discover fuel and helped Native American cultures survive the harsh environment.

The hands-on exhibit does more than just answer questions though. With touchable displays, you’ll be able to feel the sharpness of Alibates flint and learn about the arrowheads and lithic tools of early cultures. While you’re at it, check out our display of fluorescent minerals. You’ll be amazed how much you can learn from the ground beneath our feet.


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Paleontology

Meet our earliest residents

The “People of the Plains” are relative newcomers to this area. Long before humans arrived, the Panhandle Plains were ruled by other creatures. Our paleontology collection contains fossils from the Cambrian period to the Quaternary period, with a world-class emphasis on locally discovered reptiles and amphibians from the Late Triassic Period (225-200 million years ago) and mammals from the Late Cenozoic era (10-1 million years ago).
Many guests are surprised to learn that the Texas Panhandle was once a swampy, tropical rain forest, which explains the giant Phytosaur, a crocodile-like reptile, on display, as well as the salamander-like Metoposaurus, a 6-foot-long amphibian. These creatures lived among shovel-tusked mastodons, saber-toothed cats, giant land tortoises, the glyptodon, which is related to the giant armadillo, and the unique slingshot deer, named for the slingshot-shaped bone formation on its nose. Other unique prehistoric Panhandle residents include Harlan’s ground sloth and Scott’s horse, both of which are on display.
One fascinating wall shows the evolution of the ancient Bison Latifrons to the modern-day American buffalo (Bison bison). Here, visitors can see in sequence the visible changes to the creature’s horns across the millennia.

Click on the Paleontology Handbook for an in-depth guide to our jungle of bones.

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People of the Plains

Trace the lives of the first people on the Plains, beginning 14,000 years ago through modern times in this interactive exhibit area. Explore the many ways different cultures have met their need for food, shelter, clothing, transportation and trade.


Learn how the American Indian used every part of the buffalo, from the hide to the intestines, for their survival. Experience the ever-changing Panhandle weather through the windows of the 1915 kit house. All this in one exhibit area that creates an engaging, educational experience, offering a diversity of perspectives, a variety of hands-on activities and a dynamic, continually changing presentation of the museum’s exceptional collections.


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Petroleum and Natural Gas - UNDER CONSTRUCTION!!

The Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum dedicated the Don D. Harrington Petroleum Wing in February 1986. At that time, the Petroleum Wing’s two permanent galleries incorporated “the latest in exhibit design and museum interpretation.” As we approach the 30-year anniversary of the opening of the Petroleum Wing, we are keenly aware that the Panhandle Petroleum Story continued to unfold after 1986. Technological developments in oil and gas exploration and production make the Panhandle petroleum industry no less important today than it was in the years between the 1918 discovery and the boom years of the 1920s.


Deconstruction began in early January and we are projecting construction to be completed by early-mid 2016. We are excited about improving the Panhandle Petroleum Story exhibit and believe it, like the original, will serve our patrons well for many years to come.

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Pioneer Hall

Construction of Pioneer Hall began in 1932. Finished in Texas limestone, the original structure features fine decorative stonework and carvings depicting western themes and Panhandle fauna in its facade. More than 100 famous West Texas cattle brands surround the entrance. This building bears a State Antiquities Landmark designation for its unique Art Deco architectural style.


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Pioneer Town

Our brand-new Pioneer Town creates a dynamic, immersive learning environment that includes authentic sights and sounds and many fully-accessible structures with hands-on interactives. Pioneer Town reflects the communities that rose up in the Texas Panhandle between 1890 and 1910 and reflect architecture, goods, services and furnishings used by people who settled in the region. The new one-room schoolhouse is bigger than the original and features objects like early school books, slates, desks and the flag.


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Transportation

Automobiles are exhibited in a re-created car dealership, picnic scene, 50s diner and drive-in movie theater. Other items on exhibit are bicycles, an electric car and other automobiles dating from the 1900s through 1960s. These vehicles are used to augment the story of motorized transportation and its role in American history.


See TEKS Alignment here.


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Windmills

Like the wind that blows relentlessly across the Panhandle, windmills were the driving force that made settlement possible on the Panhandle Plains. Take a look at the two most popular windmills that could be seen on farms and ranches across the area—the solid-wheel Star windmill and the ubiquitous Eclipse windmill, which could be ordered in 16- or 35-foot diameters. Explore the details of our replica windmillers’ camp, which includes an authentic wagon used on the legendary XIT Ranch. A unique addition to this exhibit is an electricity-generating windcharger built soon after World War I, one of the first windmills developed for that purpose.


See TEKS Alignment here.


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