The original inhabitants of the city of Austin were the Native American tribes known as the Tonkawa, the Comanches, and the Lipan Apaches. After the settlers arrived, the city was carved out between the two creeks of the Colorado River namely the Shoal creek and the Waller Creek and its foundations were laid. As the city grew and thrived, it became the cynosure of annexation policies due to which there was a lot of political turmoil in the area. Finally, it became the part of the United States in 1845 and hence has been functioning as an integral part of the country ever since. Since the city of Austin has spawned a number of artists and performers, it is as famous for its cultural heritage as it is for its hi-tech advancements.
The history of the city is showcased beautifully in its museums, some of which are listed as follows:
Lyndon B. Johnson Museum
- Lyndon B. Johnson Museum
- Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum
- Austin Museum of Art – Downtown
- Austin Museum of Art at Laguna Gloria
- Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum
- French Legation Museum
- Blanton Museum of Art
- Mexic-Arte Museum
- George Washington Carver Museum
- Neill-Cochran House Museum
- Elisabet Ney Museum
- Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
The Lyndon B. Johnson Museum is one of the most visited museums in the country because it is one of those few museums which shed light on controversial topics like the JFK assassination, the Vietnam War and the life of the 36th President Lyndon B. Johnson. The additional attractions here are the unending and elaborate historical notes and memorabilia regarding the political highlights of that era and the replica of the Oval Office.
As with other Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson has his which is one of twelve presidential libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration. With all the historical documents the museum is a treasure of history for you to enjoy. The library contains papers from the time he was President and during his entire public career and close associates.
There are travelling exhibits related to American history that come through the museum. There are special exhibitions produced in-house and shown in the same space. Some of the documents and artifacts included in these displays are on loan from other institutions and private collections. Some of the exhibits consist of the America: 1908-973 which is six decades of American history that frame the life of Lyndon Johnson from boyhood in Central Texas, to his time as a teacher, the courtship of Lady Bird, his time as a congressman, Senator and Vice-President and then the Presidency. The exhibit features the turbulent Sixties with the War on Poverty, the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam War and the Great Society.
The Presidential Limousine, 1968 “Stretch” Lincoln that he used both in Washington and Austin is on display. There is the Model T 1910 that was given to him by Henry Ford II and numerous gifts presented to the president and the nation by other county leaders.
There is a seven-eight scale replica of the Oval Office as it was during the Johnson administration, with audio activated by a button. There is an exhibit called First Lady’s Gallery that displays the legacy of humanitarian work, an unofficial diplomat and a champion of nature. There is the “Humor of LBJ” which is a life-size, moving and talking figure of LBJ telling 5 of his short stories. All of these displays are available for you to see at the library.
Location: 2313 Red River St., Austin, Texas 78705
Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum
The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum narrates the history of the state of Texas and educates us about its traditions and culture through interactive exhibits, displays and special effect shows which occupy the three floors of the museum. Some noteworthy attractions here are the 35-foot bronze sculpture of Lone Star installed at the entrance, a permanent exhibit titled ‘Encounters on the Land’ which portrays the first meeting between the Native Americans and the European explorers, 17 media installments, a souvenir shop, and a cafe.
Austin Museum of Art – Downtown
Austin has two Art Museums for the enjoyment of the residents and the visitors to the city. The first one is downtown which offers informative and informal art experiences to fill the desires of a general audience. This site is the primary art museum for the city where the exhibitions are varied and the educational programs that showcase an array of twentieth-century and contemporary art.
Sol LeWitt’s artwork is on display at the downtown museum. His Structure and Line documents the full arc of the artist’s career. He is best known for his contribution to minimalism and conceptual art, LeWitt’s pencil drawings, brilliantly colored gouaches, and “structures” made of wood, aluminum, and fiberglass have defined and pushed the limits of art-making in his career of over 40 years. Also on display are selections from his collection of works by Alice Aycock, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Alighiero Boetti, Chuck Close, Gilbert and Geroge, Hans Haacke, Eve Hesse, On Kawara, Shirin Neshat, and Robert Ryman.
Second Saturdays are for Family’s at the museum. You can drop in and create with guests artists for a minimal fee of $7 for the family. All the public programs offered by the museum are fee unless otherwise noted; the only cost is the admission to the museum.
You can get a tour of the museum or wander through on your own. You can attend the different performances, talks and have opportunities to respond to the exhibitions.
There are tours on Saturdays and Sundays at 1 pm. You can also take the Artist Tours where you will hear first-hand how the site inspired their work.
Location of Downtown: 823 Congress Ave. at 9th St., Austin, Texas
Austin Museum of Art at Laguna Gloria
The Austin Museum of Art at Laguna Gloria is an Italian style mansion of Clara Driscoll which was built in 1916 and is currently serving as a museum and an important historic site. This museum strives to celebrate art in all its forms like the twentieth-century artworks, works of contemporary artists as well as art inspired gifts in addition to providing inspiration to upcoming artists through its famous venture, The Art School, which organizes art classes for adults as well as children.
The Laguna Gloria museum is the original home to the Art Museum. Visitors can tour the recently restored 1916 Italianate-style villa that was the home of Texas Legend Clara Driscoll. Clara Driscoll was a businesswoman, author, playwright, and politician as well as an avid gardener. Her dedication to beauty makes “her home” a wonderful experience for those wanting to study art. At this museum you will be able to see work of ten featured Austin artists such as Beverly Penn’s cast bronze botanicals and Martha Gannon’s constellation of photographs of Laguna Gloria’s flora and fauna. Well worth the trip to the Museum to just get in touch with nature and see it as the artists see it.
For the Laguna Gloria Museum Location: 3809 West 35th St. west of Mopac
Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum
The Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum is dedicated to the memory of Charles Umlauf who was a noteworthy artist and lived in the city from 1911 to 1994. Therefore this garden exhibits all his sculptures which are based on a variety of topics like families, animals, religious leaders, and mythological creatures and oscillate between realism and abstraction.
Wander through the park setting and see more than 130 sculptures, drawings and paintings of Charles Umlauf, a prolific and internationally known sculptor who created varying styles from realistic and abstract expressionism to lyrical abstractions.
Umlauf used a number of different mediums for his work ranging from exotic woods and terra cotta or cast tone up to and including rich bronzes and alabasters or luminous marbles. His work will intrigue you and make you smile or think, what a wonderful gift to the world! Umlauf was a Professor at the University of Texas as a sculpture instructions. He taught at the college for 40 years, retiring as professor emeritus in 1981.
Location: 605 Robert E. Lee Road, Austin Texas 78704
French Legation Museum
The French Legation Museum is a typical nineteenth-century mansion that was built in 1841 over 22 acres of land by Count Alphonse Dubois de Saligny of France. According to history, the Count never stayed in the house and moved to Louisiana. After having remained vacant for a number of years, the house was bought by a renowned physician and stayed in his family until it was taken over by the State of Texas in 1949 and henceforth was converted into a museum.
Blanton Museum of Art
The Blanton Museum of Art is home to almost 17,000 works of art representing the American, European and Latin American cultures. This museum is the largest University art-space in America since its atrium rises to 70 feet above the floors and apart from the temporary exhibits which keep changing, the museum also organizes lectures and presentations by noted museum curators, artists, and historians from all over the country.
The Mexic-Arte Museum is a tribute to the art and culture of Mexico and Latin America and features exhibits showcasing the Mexican revolution which took place in 1910. The museum also organizes lectures and discussions about contemporary topics and current issues like religion, politics and ethnic origins.
This is the official Mexican and Mexican American Fine Art Museum of Texas which has changing exhibits to keep the museum fresh and you coming back time after time.
The museum was founded in 1984 to showcase the traditional and contemporary Mexican, Latino, and Latin American art and culture through education and displays. The main gallery is reserved for traveling and curated exhibitions of art. These displays include those from Mexico and other Latin American countries as well as for national, local and regional Chicano and Latino artists. The back gallery is for new talent not yet seen in Austin giving new artists a venue to showcase their works to the public.
On permanent display are prints from the Taller de la Grafica Popular/Workshop of Popular Graphics dating from 1940 to 1970. This collection of etchings, linocuts, lithographs and silk-screens are part of a populist art movement in Mexico. The objective of the artists was to further the goals of the Mexican Revolution and the progressive and democratic interests of the Mexican people through the popular medium of printmaking.
The Masks from the State of Guerrero exhibit is a collection of traditional ritual masks. There are 100 works showing a record of its people, culture, religion, and history.
The Serie Print Project is a collection of silkscreen prints created by regional artists and includes over 200 works.
The Ernest De Soto Collection showcases the works of this man as the first Mexican American Master Printer. The collection consists of contemporary Latin American and American lithographs, fine prints, and etchings by renowned artists.
Location: 419 Congress Ave., Austin Texas 78701
George Washington Carver Museum
The original George Washington Carver library was built in 1926 with an new structure added in 1933. The library was named after the inventor and scientist who brought so much pride to African-Americans in 1947. In 1979, due to the increased demand on the old facility, a new facility was completed directly adjacent to the original Carver Library. In 1980 the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center, opened its doors as the first African-American neighborhood museum in the state of Texas.
In 1998 the museum was expanded to 36,000 sq. ft. which includes four galleries, a conference room, classroom, darkroom dance studio, 134 seat theatre, and archival space. The galleries feature a core exhibit on Juneteenth, a permanent exhibit on Austin African-American families, an Artists Gallery, and a children’s exhibit on African-American scientists and inventors.
Location: 1165 Angelina Street, Austin, Texas 78702
Neill-Cochran House Museum
Built in 1855 this house demonstrates the Greek Revival style with it’s Classic Doric columns. The house was built by Abner Cook for Washington Hill. Cook was the builder of the Texas Governor’s Mansion as well as other stately homes in the Austin area.
With the cost of the residence being higher than Hill anticipated he had to sell three slaves and borrowed money to finish the house. He never got the opportunity to live in the house and sold it to investors who leased it to the Texas Asylum for the Blind to use until their school and dorm were completed. Then the house was leased to Lt. Governor Fletcher Stockade.
Following the Civil Ware there were Federal troops that required medical assistance so the house was leased to the US Government as a hospital. For two years, during the Reconstruction, troops were housed and treated at the house. It is said that General George Armstrong Custer many have visited the House. The damage done to the house by the soldiers nor the rent owed by the government were ever paid. Because of this the house was sold a couple more times and finally purchased by Judge Thomas Beauford Cochran and his wife. They purchased the house in 1895 and the family owned the house until 1958 when they sold it to the National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in the State of Texas.
The house is filled with the furnishings dating from 1780 – 1925 in period rooms: Colonial, Empire, Rococo Revival and Victorian. A complete tour of the museum includes the front porch, front hall, and four rooms downstairs (three parlors and the dining room); a winding staircase, upstairs hall, and four rooms upstairs (three bedrooms and the library); the back hall; and a detached, two-story structure known as the Rock House Dependency, containing artifacts, furnishings, and 19th century kitchen tools.
The house is used as an educational tool for the elementary schools in the state with tours, history lessons and more.
The tour of the house usually takes 45 minutes, escorted by either the NCHM Director or a designated docent. A more leisurely tour that considers numerous furnishing may take an hour.
Location: 2310 Sam Gabriel, Austin, Texas.
Elisabet Ney Museum
If you are a fan of great sculpture then you will want to visit this museum which is the former studio and portrait collection created by nineteenth-century sculptor Elisabet Ney. The museum is touted to be one of the oldest museums in Texas.
The studio was built in 1892 in Hyde Park, Austin, Texas where Ney sculpted the “great men” of frontier Texas such as the life-sized statues of Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston that stand today in the national and state capitols. Included in her collection were European notables such as King Ludwig II of Bavaria, King George V of Hanover, Otto von Bismarck, Giuseppe Garibaldi, Arthur Schopenhauer, and Jacob Grimm, all cherished portraits done by this talented woman.
She was the motivation for the establishment of the University of Texas Art Department, the Texas Commission on the Arts, the Texas Fine Arts Association and museums and art schools throughout the state.
Upon her death in 1907 the studio was preserved and contents kept intact as the Elisabet Ney Museum.
Location: 304 East 44th St., Austin Texas 78751
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Right here in Austin is this 42-acre site with numerous research display gardens, landscaped areas and themed gardens that were established by Lady Bird Johnson and actress Helen Hays in 1982. The purpose is to introduce people to the beauty and diversity of wildflowers and other native plants. It is now part of the University of Texas Austin.
Nearly 30 percent of the world’s native flora is at risk of extinction. The Wildflower Center was intended to help preserve and restore this beauty to the country.
The Center’s gardens display the native plants of the Central Texas Hill Country, South and West Texas. The data base of Native Plant Information has more than 7.200 native species available for researcher online.
There are 16 unique gardens for you to enjoy and learn from. The goal is to give you vision as to what can be done in your own backyard. The Theme Gardens contain 23 beds with just a few of the infinite varieties used to show how beautiful they can be. The Ann and O.J. Weber Butterfly Garden demonstrates the codependent relationship of plants and insects and the critical role of pollinators. There are benches and walking paths and shaded areas to enjoy while observing this garden.
The South Meadow is seeded with wildflowers native to Central Texas and during the spring is a rainbow of colors. The Little House Courtyard was designed for young children ages 2 – 6, it encourages outdoor exploration. It incorporates interesting native plants that help children learn abut shapes, smells, textures and colors while having fun.
Erma Lowe Hill Country Stream gives you a place to rest and listen to the musical trickle of water flowing over the rocks.
Location: 4801 La Crosse Ave., Austin, Texas 78939