Steve Earle. Beyonce. Buddy Holly. Geto Boys. Ornette Coleman. Ernest Tubb. Bun B. Selena. Van Cliburn. Johnny Mathis. Stevie Ray Vaughan. Did I mention Willie? If ever there were a no-brainer for Texas tourism, surely a museum of Texas music history would fit that description.
But as the sun set on the legislative session last week, so did plans to build just such a museum in the Live Music Capitol of the world, also known as Austin. Blame lawmakers? Not so fast.
Texas’ history is reflected in its eclectic music tastes – to the tune of polka, jazz, bluegrass, country, conjunto and more. Small, private museums across the state are proud to showcase their claim to Texas music fame.
“People feel very strongly about the history they hold that makes their part of the state unique,” says Dr. Lynn Denton, director of the Public History Program at Texas State University and founding director of the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin.
While two separate bills this session proposed the creation of a centralized museum in Austin – bringing together all of that rich history under one roof – the legislation did not pass because nearly 40 regional museums lobbied against it.
“We needed those partners, and we needed them to be enthusiastic about what we were going to do," Denton says. "They are about the regions they interpret. We wanted to pull all those strings together and give people a really unique experience in Austin about statewide history as well as our context with the national story.”
For now, plans to open the music history museum across from the Bullock State History Museum in Austin have been shelved.
“Building collaborations so that everybody feels they have a place at the table is going to be critical to having a unified approach to moving forward with an institution like this,” Denton says. “In order to be successful, we wanted to be a great destination for people coming to Austin. Education was at the heart of that initiative. What makes a state museum is one that has that overarching purpose.”
Written by Taylor Buchanan.