15 Aug

October 1 – Selfies on Paper: Pinhole Cameras

Sunday Funday's History Lab takes a look at

The (New and Improved!) Pinhole Camera

Sunday, October 1st, 1PM to 4PM – FREE

If you’re a 21st century person, chances are good that you take pictures (and send them at the touch of a button) all of the time. More than 2 out of 3 American adults own a smartphone, nearly twice as many people as did 5 years ago. Ask yourself how many days it’s been since you last snapped a selfie, took a picture of what you ate for dinner, or took a candid shot of a kid doing something entirely adorable.

You didn’t do any of those things with a device that only functions as a camera. You didn’t have to wait to see what the picture would look like or pay someone to develop it for you. You may have never seen a photometer or a recipe for developer. It all happens inside a device that weighs about one quarter of a pound and responds to your touch. Mysterious, huh?

Here in the lab, we decided that it was time we went back and looked at where photography came from. Photography used to be a physical, chemical process involving some guess-work, some experience, and some (often clunky) specialized equipment. If you haven’t had to take a picture without being able to see the image or assess its quality beforehand, you haven’t taken a photograph like a 19th- or early 20th-century person. This month, we’ll help you recreate this experience–and show you that it’s easier than you think, too!

What is a pinhole camera?

Good quality photographs do not require lenses! (The three photographs above were all taken with pinhole cameras) Any light-tight vessel with a single tiny hole (.015″ – about the thickness of a kitchen trash bag) can capture an image on photographic paper. The hole works like a lens, focusing the light reflected by objects in front of the camera into a clear picture. It takes 2-30 minutes to capture a photograph this way, mostly because so little light can come in through the pinhole.

Will you help me (or my child) build one?

Yes! We supply all of the materials you need and will walk you through the process from assembling your camera through the finished printed image. Don’t have time to build a camera? We’ll have some cameras already assembled and ready to go!

This workshop is open to all ages; children 12 & younger may require the assistance of an older child or adult. Please allow up to 2 hours to complete this project. For those completing the workshop later in the afternoon, finished prints may be available by mail later in the week.

Reserve a spot for this workshop

Due to high-demand in previous years, we ask that you RSVP for this free workshop. Please respect others’ time by arriving by or before your reserved time. Patrons arriving 15 minutes after their reserved time will be offered later spots on a first-come, first-served basis subject to availability.

What do I do while I wait?

Heritage games and our museum scavenger hunts make an excellent way to pass the time while your photograph is in the lab. Please note that our museum cafe will be closed this Sunday; bringing a picnic to set up on the grounds is especially welcome.

But is it really free?

Yes! Like all of our Sunday Funday programming, this workshop is free. All you need to bring is your curiosity (and a picnic if you like!) If you want to take your camera home, we ask that you leave us a donation of $10 to help keep the lab inventing new (old) ideas for you to explore.

15 Aug

September 17 – Austin Museum Day comes to Neill-Cochran

Museum Day 20151
Museum Day 2015B2
Museum Day 20155
Civil War Era costumes for all persuasions, homemade ice cream on the porch, and your ticket to explore Austin's first 100 years on

Austin Museum Day 2016

Sunday, September 17th, 12PM to 4PM – FREE

Austin Museum Day returns this fall bringing the museum up to full power with more than a few ways to step back into Austin’s early history. Though we can’t ever see many of the original visitors to the Neill-Cochran House, Civil War era reenactors will take to the parlor rooms, giving us an idea of who might have spent a Sunday afternoon here during the first 20 years of the house’s history. Fast forward a decade or two to consider the Neill family’s reconstructed surroundings at your own pace, or further still to look at the Cochran family’s original furnishings in the second floor hall and bedrooms.

Need to rest your attention span? Take a walk around the grounds with our gardens exhibit, take a peek inside the Dependency to see examples of 19th-century tools and kitchenware, or stop by our museum cafe. Afterwards, join us on the porch and help make hand-churned, old-fashioned ice cream and fresh-squeezed lemonade. Something tells us that both will taste just fine no matter what temperature we see this Sunday.

Isn’t it hard to park by campus?

While we are in the West Campus neighborhood, parking is easier than you think. The museum lot is accessible from 23rd street just west of San Gabriel (behind the historic house). Overflow parking is often available just one block away at the University Towers garage at 23rd & Pearl.

15 Aug

Experience’s Treasures

What our collections say about who we are

Why do we collect? What do we collect? What does it mean to have a collection? In an age defined by consumerism and the easy availability of things, how do we determine which objects we will carry with us through life?

Consider it from our perspective: the only reason that the objects in our collection (whether they date from the nineteenth century or before) have survived is because they were prized for their beauty, their inherent monetary value, their utility, or because of their owners’ sentimental attachments. In most cases, objects fit into more than one category and serve to show us the human dimensions of their particular histories.

The Sonnenberg collection, on display in our gallery from September 2nd through December 17th, presents a century of one family’s collecting, and explores the ways in which the objects we hold on to document our interests and our journeys through life. Throughout their lives, the objects the Sonnenbergs have prized are not simply things, they are signposts for meaning in both relationships and experiences. An eclectic collection that features fine art, folk art, and ephemera, Experience’s Treasures will challenge viewers to consider our relationship to the objects that surround us in our own lives.

Basket Small
Ark small
Women small
Uncle Sam small
Sailor small
Rooster Small
Coyote small
Ceramic Guys Small
Bowl small

Experience's Treasures Opening Reception: Saturday, September 23rd 4:00 to 6:00pm

We invite you to join us for an evening of conversation about the questions we raise in this exhibit. Complimentary beverages served.

11 Aug

Friends Trip – Granite and Green Mountains: American Art and History Up East

Join the Friends of the Neill-Cochran House Museum for a six-day adventure in the history and artistry of New England.

The granite of New Hampshire and the Green Mountains of Vermont embraced an impressive range of artistry around the turn of the 20th century, including poets Robert Frost and E E Cummings; painters Winslow Homer and Maxfield Parrish; and America’s foremost sculptor in this period, Augustus St Gaudens, who anchored an artists’ colony at Cornish. An itinerary related to these figures will complement visits to famed houses from Georgian times to Frank Lloyd Wright.

Itinerary Overview –  June 25-30, 2017

Portland, Maine

City Tour
Wadsworth-Longfellow House (1785ff., childhood home of the famous poet)
Portland Museum of Art with special private visit to Winslow Homer’s Prouts Neck Studio
Portland Head Light


McPhaedris-Warner House (1716, earliest urban brick house in northern New England)
Moffatt-Ladd House (1763 elegant Georgian mansion; Portsmouth furniture; NSCDA property)
Lunch with New Hampshire Colonial Dames
Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion (1740ff., harbor-side home of first royal governor)

Lake Champlain

Shelburne Museum of Art (exceptional fine art and vast collections of American material culture)
Vermont State Capitol at Montpelier

Dartmouth, Cornish, Plymouth, Windsor

St Gaudens Studio (home, studio and gardens of America’s greatest 19th-century sculptor)
Cornish-Windsor Bridge over the Connecticut River (longest wooden covered bridge in the US)
Calvin Coolidge Homestead (1870? boyhood home and site of Coolidge’s Presidential oath-taking, 1923)


Currier Museum of Art, internationally renowned collection of European and American art    Zimmerman House (1950, Frank Lloyd Wright), observing the Wright 150 Robert Frost Farm (time permitting)

Featured Historic Hotels

2 nights in Portland at historic Regency (1895) in the Old Port District
3 nights at Inn at Mill Falls, Meredith NH, on Lake Winnipesaukee

Other inclusions

Porterage, breakfast daily, 2 lunches, 3 dinners, all ground transportation (chartered coach daily), museum admissions, guides and gratuities

Additional Costs

$200 gift to support operation and programs of the historic Neill-Cochran House Museum (Abner Cook, 1855)
Airfare via United Airlines (schedule pending) via Portland and/or Manchester; travel protection

Click Here to download a form with more information, including notes on different costs and accommodations. Then be sure to reserve your spot by mailing the printed form and your deposit to:

Karen Bluethman, Heart of Texas Tours
8501 Silver Ridge Drive
Austin, TX 78759

Have questions or concerns? Contact Karen Bluethman at (512) 345-2043 hottours@sbcglobal.net.

11 Aug

May 13-21 – West Austin Studio Tour comes to Neill-Cochran

Neill-Cochran House Museum goes WEST

An overlay exhibit featuring 14 local contemporary artists

Seeger.Travis - woven sphere (1600x1600)
macqueen.lucy-Before (1600x1600)
Fritz.Julie-3 (1600x1600)
Finfrock.Cheryl-In Between Breaths _ Long Before Words_12inches x 16inches_acrylic on claybord_2016
Sarkin.Shakti_PedernalesFalls_L (1600x1600)
Fox.Kristen-Agave II (1275x1600)
Finch.Paul - Vanessa (1600x1600)
Primeaux 1 (960x960)
Holman.Sona -A Delicate Balance
Cook. Thomas-ThePleiadsFolio (944x944)

The furnishings and architecture of the Neill-Cochran House Museum ground us in a handful of different times; to walk in the door is to in part step into the 19th and early-20th centuries. As historians and preservationists, what we like most about hosting individual artists for WEST is that it allows us to see the difference between the Austins of the 1850s, 1870s, 1900s, and so on and the Austin we live in. Does that difference go beyond the modernization we can easily imagine or is it better thought of as a change in tastes and aesthetics in its own right?

However one reads our historic site against this display of the creativity of our present, we think that you’ll enjoy this unique exhibition of Austin artists in one of the oldest extant structures in town.

Exhibition Hours – WEST 2017

Free Admission

Saturday and Sunday, May 13-14 – 11am to 6pm

Tuesday through Friday, May 16-19 – 1pm to 4pm

Saturday and Sunday, May 20-21 – 11am to 6pm

Hat’s off to our artists! 15% of artwork sales benefit the Neill-Cochran House Museum

Opening Night Reception

Saturday, May 13th, 5PM to 7PM - FREE

Join us for an evening of conversation and complimentary refreshments to celebrate the opening of our second cooperative exhibition of contemporary art in our unique historic space.

On site parking is available free behind the museum; additional neighborhood parking is available on Leon, Robbins, and 23rd streets. Paid garage parking is available at 23rd & Pearl streets.