Before you start your study of history, don’t forget to learn the flags and symbols, songs, and geography of Texas. Texas place names hold a world of history in their origins. Once you get started on the following sites and sights, you won’t find a good place to stop. You can explore these sites for a long time and you can use them for research. But in this my own site, I have picked out the best part of each linked site that fits with the different periods of history I have listed, and I have linked that part of their site in the appropriate section of history. So you don’t have to go through and figure out what part to use when, unless you want to.
This premier Texas history museum opened in April 2001 and has no permanent collection but instead displays some of the best from museums and collections across Texas and the country. Exhibitions have included the artifacts from the excavation of the Belle, La Salle’s doomed ship, a Comanche hunting bow, and Travis’ letter from the Alamo. Don’t miss the Texas Spirit Theater’s multimedia presentation Star of Destiny; it’s a real treat. There is also an IMAX theater and a cafe on-site, and the whole complex is within walking distance of the state capitol.
While the Bullock Museum is the queen of Texas history museums, you can get a mini-overview of Texas history and see some pretty interesting artifacts closer to home. The Bryan Museum just opened in June of 2015 in Galveston. It is housed in an iconic building that once housed the Galveston Orphans Home.
The museum exhibits cover not only Texas history but the history of the U.S. Southwest and the museum boasts the largest collection of Southwest-related historical artifacts, artwork, and documents. The exhibits are the result of a lifetime of collecting by oilman J.P. Bryan. Texas history buffs are the beneficiaries of his passion.
Currently the exhibits can only be seen with a guided tour that lasts about an hour and a half. The docent gives a decent outline of Texas and southwest history, and there are enough interesting items to keep most kids engaged. There are beautiful saddles with silver trim, Spanish armor, Santa Anna’s smoking cap, Stephen F. Austin’s handkerchief as well as a nice set of items on cowboys and cowgirls. The rooms with the artwork come at the end and I could anticipate interest flagging in a lot of children at that point. There is a very cool children’s area in the basement (a Galveston basement, which is the first floor half covered with the earth used to build up the island after the storm). This area has been transformed into the pirate cave of Jean Lafitte, who is said to have buried treasure in Galveston.
University of Texas at Austin
This museum, tucked away on campus, has a variety of exhibits on Texas geography, archaeology, and pre-history. It’s free and worth a visit if you are in the area.
The Institute, now run by UT San Antonio, has exhibits on virtually every people group and culture that ever settled in Texas from pre-historic to modern times—more than 50 separate groups. This is a great way to get introduced to the crafts and customs of the people who have made Texas what it is today.
Festivals and Reenactments
About Texas: The Texas State Library and Archives Commission has this fabulous list of websites and resources, including everything you need to do a report on Texas. In fact, they may have the ultimate list of links to Texas information, but I’ll try to make it worth your while to stick around here, as well.
The Portal to Texas History: This is a project of the University of North Texas that is collecting digital archives and information in one place. A lot of work has gone into this and there is a special section for educators and students with some excellent and free resources. This will give you access to a lot of primary sources: letters, diaries, and other documents.
Texas Beyond History: This is a project of the University of Texas and is concerned mostly with prehistory, that is Native Americans who were here before or right as Europeans arrived in Texas. This site has curriculum and student activities. Also, the excellent pictures let you travel vicariously to some of the archaeological sites that are being excavated.
Texas State Historical Association (TSHA) Handbook of Texas Online: This provides you with an online index of probably every person, place, and thing that has to do with Texas. If you want to look something up, this is the place to go.
The Texas Almanac: Also provided by the TSHA, this provides a wealth of information about Texas. If you can’t find it here, you probably don’t need it.
Official Website of the State of Texas: Not much history here, but always a handy link, especially if you need to renew your drivers license. I must say the new look of the government site is actually welcoming and friendly, with a wry sense of humor, just like a Texan ought to be.
Lone Star Junction: This site has been around since 1995 and kind of looks like it. But it has a plethora of Texas paraphernalia including info and pictures about flags, symbols and songs. It also has full-text versions of some hard-to-find books, including Noah Smithwick’s account of early Texas that is the source of much Texas folklore and history.
Texas Highways Magazine: Every month they take you to a bunch of wonderful and interesting places in Texas. A great guide to traveling Texas or visiting places while sitting in your living room.
Texas Parks and Wildlife: They run the state parks that house a lot of the sites you will visit. Many parks also allow camping, so you can make a weekend of your visit and stay in the beautiful Texas outdoors.
Maps from Texas Parks and Wildlife: These are so cool. There are about a dozen curious maps, including tarpon distribution, golden cheek warbler habitat, changes in the San Jacinto Battleground, and the location of artificial reefs.
Texas History.Com: This is a beautiful site with lots of gorgeous pictures and great resources. Maybe someday I can grow up and look like this site.
University of Texas Briscoe Center for American History: This has a lot of artifacts and exhibits and a special section on Texas History. By now, you are probably thinking like I am: there is more information online about Texas History than a fellow could read in a lifetime.