's Mansion Sanborn 1877

Prominent upon a hill: The unlikely birth and growth of Austin

On View April 4 - December 20, 2019

In 1839, Sam Houston wrote that, “there is no site more unfortunate on Earth for the Seat of Government.” See how Austin survived its unlikely beginnings and grew during its first century of existence.

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The Art of the Japanese Fan: Selections from the Josephine West Ladd Collection

On View September 11, 2019 - February 2, 2020

Japanese aesthetics exerted tremendous influence on Americans and Europeans from the 19th century through a substantial part of the 20th century. This display captures the fascination of one American collector with folding fans as icons of Japanese design.

Past Exhibits

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Joy and Delight: Lu Ann Barrow and the Folk Spirit

On View May 30 - August 18, 2019
(First run: February 13 - April 28, 2019)

Canvases from Austin-trained and Texas-born artist Lu Ann Barrow’s seven-decade-spanning career evoke the joys and sorrows of communal life using skillfully handled allegory and almost beguiling plain painting.

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The War at Home: World War I Comes to Texas

On view March 21, 2018 - March 17, 2019

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. Using the experiences of the Cochran family and 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.


Deep in the Heart: Historic Texas Quilts

On View February 13 - March 10, 2019

Six quilts of Texan provenance dating from the 1880s through the 1970s bring the material culture of Texan family life to our historically furnished bedrooms.


Through Her Eyes: The Impressionist Work of Anna Stanley

On View September 5, 2018 - February 3, 2019

A rare retrospective exhibit of 19th-century impressionist painter Anna Stanley brings us to the moment in which new opportunities opened up to women painters–and a rare lens on the world as it was around the turn of the 20th century.

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Beyond Function: The Art of the Folding Fan

On View May 23 - September 2, 2018

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.  A collection of 19th and 20th century fans links the utilitarian nature of the folding fan with diverse styles and origins.

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Is now the dream? Hina-ningyo Portraits + Landscapes

On view January 17 - May 6, 2018

Is Now the Dream? Hina-ningyō Portraits + Landscapes features the work of Pat Brown, a local Austin photographer who explores the cultural aesthetic of Japan, both past and present.

Hina-ningyō–hand-crafted Japanese dolls–represent members of the Japanese imperial courts. The photographer’s work brings out the unique expressiveness in each doll, revealing the human and poetic dimensions of their unchanging and timeless expressions.

Landscape and architectural photographs of Japan round out the exhibit, suggesting what one might have seen during the Edo period prior to Commodore Perry’s opening of Japan to the West in the 1850s, and thus, at the same time Abner Cook was completing our historic house across the world in Austin, Texas.

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Floral Appliqué in Full Bloom: Selections from the International Quilt Festival Collection

On view February 21 - March 19, 2018

In this exhibit, we place 19th and early 20th quilts in the context of the then contemporary home, highlighting the relational aspects of their artistry.  While we appreciate them today as significant artistic achievements in their own right, distinguished by the amount of craftsmanship and work by hand required to complete them, their original context was far more personal and practical.

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This exhibit is presented in partnership with the Texas Quilt Museum and Quilts, Inc.

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The Woman Must Marry, Else How Live: The Culture of Weddings from 1850-1950

On view March 2, 2017 - March 11, 2018

The American Wedding evolved alongside the material culture and social norms of the United States and the individual communities within it. From a ceremony which did not exist as a fixed concept in most people’s minds until the middle of the 19th century to the elaborate public celebrations we know today, this exhibit traces the evolution of the fashion, the expectations, and the social context of what is for some the most important day of their lives.

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To Embellish the Country: The Neill-Cochran House Museum Grounds in the full bloom of context

Exterior Exhibit

The series of Greek Revival residences Abner Cook constructed in Austin in the 1850s represented an attempt to bring order to the wilderness, and to erect temples of culture and refinement.  The Neill-Cochran House grounds as you see them today are not heavily embellished, nor were they in the nineteenth century.  They were tasteful and provided opportunity for recreation out of doors, and originally were balanced between the ornamental and the useful. Read more about this exhibit, perhaps as you walk through the grounds.

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Experience's Treasures: Selections from the Dale and Stephen Sonnenberg Collection

On view September 2 - December 17, 2017

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?

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.

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Silverworks: Fashioned Elegance

Drawing from examples dating from the early 19th through the mid-20th centuries, we consider differences in material, process, and design amongst American Coin Silver, Sterling, Sheffield Plate, and electroplate flatware and hollowware for formal and ostentatious as well as daily use. Anglo-American, Austrian, and Mexican pieces show a variety of aesthetics and craftsmanship between small artisans and large manufacturers.


Fascinating Faces: Portraits from the Neill-Cochran House Collection

Portraiture was foundational for the practice and careers of American artists working in the 18th through early 20th centuries, and understandably held a singular place in many Americans’ art collections. In this exhibit, we examine the fascination that Americans have consistently had with portraiture through works by both formally trained and self-taught painters spanning 150 years of Anglo-American aesthetics.

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Remembered by Hand: Family Histories Illuminated

On view February 7-25, 2017

Emerging directly from the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876, the crazy quilt took the United States by storm in a blaze of kaleidoscopic color. The heyday of this fad was short lived, however. The crazy quilt reached its zenith and began a slow descent towards obscurity within only a few years of its birth. But within those brief years, the crazy quilt ushered in an artistic renaissance of needlework.

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Generations on Paper: Preserving the Pease Family Collection at the Austin History Center

On view March 2016 - February 2017

Housed at the Austin History Center and recently processed in order to be available to researchers, the Pease Family Papers consist of materials related to the family of Elisha Marshall Pease, who was governor of Texas from 1853 to 1857 and from 1867 to 1869, and his wife, Lucadia Christiana (Niles) Pease. Like many Austinites, they were not natives, but once they arrived they fell in love with the city. They and their descendants left behind a wealth of records and information that document life in Austin and Texas in the 19th and early 20th centuries.


Stitching Memory: American Quilts from the Neill-Cochran House Museum Collection

On view February 16th through March 14th

The art of quilting often is in many ways the art of stitching memory.  The quilts in the Neill-Cochran House Museum Collection speak to us of creativity, practicality, and the beauty to be found in the everyday lives of the artists who produced them.  In some cases, we know a good deal about the quilter, and in others the quilter remains an enigma – anonymous. Representing different processes (patchwork, applique, and crazy quilting) as well as a variety of traditional design motifs,the quilts on display share great artistic design and detail in the stitching and material choices.

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West Campus 1815-2015: Evolution of an Austin Neighborhood

On view through March 2016

Widening our interpretive view to include the cultural and historical landscape that surrounds the Neill-Cochran House, we present images, information, and objects from the 200 year history of what we now know as West Campus. The early days of the University of Texas, the Austin City Gazette calls for “wars of extermination” against the indigenous Native American tribes, the growth and decline of Wheatville, and the sweeping changes ushered in by the 2004 University Neighborhood Overlay offer a moment to gather up the no longer visible past of this iconic Austin neighborhood.

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A City Rises: Abner Cook and the Growth of Antebellum Austin

On view March 2014 - April 2015

Master Builder Abner Cook arrived in Austin as a 25 year old man in the year of the city’s founding, 1839. Following his career (which would ultimately span five decades), we trace the parallels between Cook’s projects and the improving fortunes of the frontier capital.