At a recent meeting of the Southeast Texas Museums Association, Museums Unbound had the opportunity to visit the Texas Forestry Museum. Located in the lumber town of Lufkin, this museum reminded us that small museums have two great superpowers.
Small museums make it easy to encounter big ideas right in front of you. At a small museum you can come right up to objects like a brightly painted lumber wagon, a printing press, or a full sized railroad caboose. Small museums let you come face to face with objects that might be set apart or overshadowed at a larger museum.
The other superpower? Just the opposite: at a small museum, you are likely to come across hidden treasures and tiny surprises. Check out this beautiful diorama in the Texas Forestry Museum’s galleries that depicts a lumber milling town.
Dioramas are often brushed off as old-fashioned but museum industry research notes that dioramas are highly rated and much beloved by museum visitors for sparking curiosity and imagination, especially among those who are supposedly “digital natives.”
Museum Director Kendall Gay took the opportunity to show off some equally engaging artifacts. The Texas Forestry Museum has a significant collection of Smokey Bear objects and as 2019 is the 75th birthday of this mascot, a look at national campaigns and local goods was in order.
Here we got to examine several series of stamps promoting wildfire prevention and a local milk carton featuring Smokey and the pine forests of East Texas.
After the conclusion of the meeting, we couldn’t resist taking in the grounds where an epic fire tower overlooks a walking trail and an outdoor creative play space with sensory friendly elements. One unexpected sensory friendly element-- really friendly-- was a neighbor’s cat who had followed the family to the museum. Marley the cat spent the time that his family was inside the museum giving a closely escorted tour of the outdoors exhibits and even followed us along the sensory path, stopped at every descriptive tree identification sign, and made sure to follow the rainbow colored stumps as we returned to the walking path. Another tiny surprise in a space full of big ideas!