Innovative museums revolutionizing cowhand stories, history

By Cowgirl Candace | Intro image by LaSundra Davis

A little know-what about Cowgirl Candace: I have a thang for superlatives. I keep a lot of random digits and information in my mind about one-of-a-kind people, places and things. Like, did you know the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo is the only black touring rodeo in the United States? Or that I’m the first black cowgirl to pioneer a digital blogazine about country Western culture from an African-American perspective?

And honestly, it’s just an easier way for me to remember facts and figures connected to my research and creative projects. Well, the following museums are some of the nation’s most reliable resources to learn more about the very heritage I grew up in. Each houses innovative data and details most of us probably didn’t even know exists about the cowhand experience and the trailblazing talents who have contributed to the development of the Old and New West.

CARTERSVILLE, GEORGIA:

The Booth Museum: This 120,000-square-foot museum is dubbed the world’s largest permanent exhibition space for Western arts, pop culture and American heritage. An affiliate to the Smithsonian Institution,  Booth Museum features more than 150 American Indian artifacts and 100 traditional Western paintings and sculptures. INNOVATIVE EDGE: Using online virtual tours, the museum now opens up its digital doors to guests around the globe. Online visitors can take virtual tours of the museum’s galleries — from its presidential and cowboy to war and modern art exhibits. It also educates and entertains children ages 2 through 12 with interactive video games through its Sagebrush Ranch stations, which actually simulate scenes from a real-life working ranch.

Interior of the Booth Museum in Cartersville, Georgia.

FORT WORTH, TEXAS:

Amon Carter Museum of American ArtDesignated one of the premier museums of American art in the nation, Amon displays roughly 400 works of art, ranging from sculptures and rare books to photographs and grand paintings. Overall, it houses more than 200,000 objects. Its research library provides more than 140,000 items that back the study of American history and art. INNOVATIVE EDGE: Admiring Amon’s arts and culture collection from home: There’s an app for that. The museum’s “Google Arts & Culture app” allows you to take virtual tours of its extensive collection of American West artwork. Corridors lead you to galleries that help piece together stories from frontier, war and rodeo lifestyles.

Lenora Rolla Heritage Center Museum: Enter the front door of the Boone House — the remodeled location of the Lenora Rolla museum — and instantly take a heart-wrenching journey from slave ships to cotton fields. Then, meet 20th– to 21st-century African Americans who became devoted community change agents, contributing to Fort Worth’s economy, education and politics. The  museum sits on 166,000 square feet of property and serves as a preserving gold mine of hardly-ever-talked-about information concerning black agriculture and advancement in the area. INNOVATIVE EDGE: The center brings depth to its historical storytelling by hosting living legends throughout the fiscal year — especially its nonagenarian and centenarian citizens who have made local to national impacts for decades. You can’t get any more real with history than that. These local luminaries often work with youth to move their captivating oral stories to social media conversations that connect millennials to past struggles and accomplishments within the Black Belt Region.

National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame: It’s the only museum on the planet dedicated to commemorating women of the American West who have demonstrated remarkable courage and a trailblazing spirit throughout their lifetime. The 33,000-square-foot museum and Hall of Fame (200-plus honorees to date) is residence to 4,000 artifacts and information about more than 750 cowgirls in their own right. INNOVATIVE EDGE: The late and famous exhibition and sharpshooter Annie Oakley actually shares her pioneering, Buffalo Bill Wild West Show story with you by way of the museum’s hologram technology. Also, archival footage has been repurposed into hanging glass screens that illuminate the gallery’s ceiling and artfully display the success stories of groundbreaking cowgirls as well.

Mural from the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame.

WASHINGTON, D.C.:

Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture: Everything African American is celebrated here. It’s the only national museum committed to the documentation of African American life, culture and history. The museum spans from articles as far back as slavery; the American South and West; and of the legendary Buffalo Soldiers. The newest museum of the Smithsonian Institution, it features more than 36,000 artifacts and includes almost 100,000 individuals in membership. It’s. A. Big. Deal. INNOVATIVE EDGE: Before parents, educators and students field trip to this captivating museum in person, the Smithsonian has designed online learning labs that allow Web visitors to increase their knowledge and search its interactive collections (and even design your own), using the museum’s supplied digital images, audio and videos from then and now.

A cowboy cooking photo as part of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture’s online learning lab “Wild West” collection.

*The cover photo of ‘Black Cowboys in the American West’ comes from the Erwin E. Smith Collection of the Library of Congress on deposit at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, Texas. The black cowboy experience and contributions to establishing the American West have made significant strides from books to now film and TV series.

Cowgirl Candace

Candace, a.k.a. Cowgirl Candace, is an award-winning feature writer, internationally published brand blogger and wardrobe stylist.

The fourth-generation cowgirl and veteran journalist pioneered digital platform Southern Styles & Steeds — a country Western fashion, beauty and lifestyles blogazine — to share the sophisticated styles and sincere stories from her Down South upbringing.