20 Aug

September 23 – Austin Museum Day Comes Home

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19th century costume, homemade ice cream on the porch, old time music, Impressionist painting (including DIY Impressionist painting!) and your ticket to explore Austin's first 100 years on

Austin Museum Day 2018

Sunday, September 23rd, 12PM to 4PM – FREE

Look. Listen. Play. Taste. Not necessarily in that order, either.

For this year’s Austin Museum Day, we’re offering activities for all five senses. We invite you to:

Visit our exhibit of paintings by Anna Stanley, a 19th century American Impressionist painter. While you’re at it, try your hand at painting a landscape scene of your own outside in watercolor–don’t worry, real, live professional artists will be on hand to lend you their wisdom. You could also visit with one of our ladies and gentlemen in 19th century costume, too.

On our porch, you’ll find live music performed by local old-time band Duck Creek on one side and hand-cranked, hand-squeezed, all scratch-made lemonade and ice cream on the other. We suggest sipping in the shade for big folks and playing on the grounds for little folks.

Mathhappens will be demonstrating their ingenious Pythagorean tables on the grounds and we hear that there will be cupcakes (and chess pieces, too).

Last but by no means least, let us recommend our World War I on the Homefront exhibit and a visit to the tools and household implements in the Dependency (which is likely the 9th oldest built structure standing in Austin, by the way).

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.

14 Jun

A Night for Our Nation

A Night For Our Nation, honoring Thomas M. Hatfield, inaugural recipient of the Award for Distinction in Patriotic Service presented by The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Texas Monday, November 12th, 2018 6:00 p.m. Cocktails & Dinner

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05 Jun

Booth’s Richard III

In 1861, John Wilkes Booth was an admired touring actor. Four years later he will become one of America’s most detested villains. Using Booth’s original promptbook and 19th century original practices, the Hidden Room Theatre will resuscitate the ghost of his infamous Richard, and examine the dangers of division, reckless rhetoric, and radicalization.

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30 May

Beyond Function: The Art of the Folding Fan

Beyond Function: The Art of the Folding Fan

On view May 23 – September 2, 2018

FAN, noun [Latin vannus.]

  1. An instrument used by ladies to agitate the air and cool the face in warm weather. It is made of feathers, or of thin skin, paper or taffeta mounted on sticks, etc.
  2. Something in the form of a woman’s fan when spread, as a peacock’s tail, a window, etc.
  3. An instrument for winnowing grain, by moving which the grain is thrown up and agitated, and the chaff is separated and blown away.
  4. something by which the air is moved; a wing.
  5. An instrument to raise the fire or flame; as a fan to inflame love.

Noah Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language, 1828 edition

What is a fan?  The word sparks immediate associations – blades that, when in motion, provide a cooling breeze.  In that moment, the moment when you first thought “fan,” you likely didn’t think of courtship or etiquette.  Or fashion.  Or social or economic status.  All of these uses take the folding fan far beyond the utilitarian and practical function of a cooling breeze.  But step back in time to read Noah Webster’s 1828 definition, and all of those associations come to life.

The fan first came to Europe in the 16th century.  Europeans had fanned themselves before then, but the introduction of Eastern handscreens and folding fans elevated the fan as an object to something beyond the practical.  Within a century, fans had become necessary accessories for royalty and wealthy Europeans. 

At the same time, folding fans were objects of great monetary value.  Beautiful, intricately carved ivory, tortoise shell, and bone sticks were imported to Europe by the East India Company and others and combined with beautifully painted vellum or silk leaves.  Often silver and gold paint adorned the leaves, and sometimes gems were inset into the guard sticks.

As time passed, fans became more eclectic.  Painted vellum and paper leaves were joined by silk and lace leaves studded with sequins, and into the 20th century dramatic floral fans designed to make a statement across the room joined more art nouveau restrained designs.

Returning to our original question – what is a fan?  While its function may define it, after viewing this exhibit you may believe that function is only the beginning.

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28 Feb

The War at Home: World War I Comes to Texas

Texas and the Great War

On June 28, 1914, a Serbian terrorist assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, along with his pregnant wife Sophie, in Sarajevo.  This single, albeit horrific, event over 5,000 miles away from Austin, Texas reverberated across the world as much of Europe became embroiled in war.  Americans watched from the sidelines for over two years as hundreds of thousands died, hoping to avoid military engagement while providing supplies to the Allied forces of France, Britain, and Belgium.

When this all changed in early 1917, Texas found itself at the heart of the United State’s decision to go to war.  In January 1917, German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmerman sent an encoded telegram to the President of Mexico in which he encouraged Mexico to join the Central Powers in exchange for support in the reconquest of parts of the United States once claimed by Mexico (Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona).  Intercepted and decoded by British cryptographers, the “Zimmermann Telegram” was the fuse that compelled Congress to declare war on Germany on April 6, 1917.

Over the eighteen short months the United States was at war, 4.7 million Americans served.  53,402 soldiers were killed in action, while even more (63,114) died of disease or other causes, the vast majority from the Spanish Flu epidemic.  Here in Texas, 198,000 were in the armed forces along with 450 women who served as nurses.  Over 5,000 Texans died, more than one-third succumbing to Spanish Flu without ever deploying to Europe.

This exhibit takes us back in time 100 years to life as experienced by Texans during World War I.  The war was disruptive to family life in many ways.  Enlistments certainly separated families, but everyday life was also impacted in many ways, from pressure to purchase war bonds, to the impact of the Spanish Flu, to a certain level of militarization of society, and food rationing.  Finally, the image of the “dough-boy” that has come down to us today is of a white American soldier.  Mexican-Americans, African-Americans, and German-Americans in many ways struggled to prove their Americanness while the country was at war, a struggle that was as acute in Texas as in the rest of the country.

The Cochran family lived in our historic house throughout the war era.  Thomas B. Cochran had died in 1913, but his wife and five children (three daughters and two sons) all participated in the war effort in some way.  Using their experience as well as the experiences of other Austinites as a guide, we explore the impact of the Great War on the lives of the people who remained on the home front and the relationships they maintained with soldiers who served elsewhere and abroad.

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Opening Lecture: The Great War Effort

Dr. Scott Wolford, University of Texas at Austin

Presented in partnership with the Bullock Texas State History Museum and the Friends of the Governor’s Mansion, join us and Dr. Wolford for a discussion of the role that everyday Americans played in the nation’s efforts during the Great War.