Set on the campus of West Texas A&M University, the Panhandle–Plains Historical Museum is a historical archive owned and operated by the Panhandle-Plains Historical Society. The largest archive in the state of Texas, the museum holds over three million artifacts and receives more than 70,000 visitors every year.
The students and faculty of West Texas State Teachers College, along with help from area supporters founded the Panhandle-Plains Historical Society in 1921. The society’s main goal is to preserve the history of the West-Texas region’s pioneer lifestyle.
The museum has been at its present location since 1933. Timothy Hobart, originally from Vermont, was president of the society in 1927 and was instrumental in directing the completion of the museum. The museum received a $5.8 million renovation on 2001.
Some of the Panhandle-Plains Museum’s permanent exhibits include American Western-life, Native-American and agriculture artifacts, artworks, antiques, geological finds, period firearms, paleontology, petroleum-industry and sports artifacts, furniture and vehicles. Other exhibits include:
A recreation of an old-west town, “Pioneer Town” depicts a typical early 1900s settlement in the Texas Panhandle. The town has an authentic western schoolhouse, saloon, livery stable and pioneer cabin along with other old-west style buildings.
The “People of the Plains: Experiments in Living” displays the similarities and differences of past and present-day plains settlers.
Located outside of the museum is a recreation of the original “T-Anchor Ranch House” that was first built in the 1870s.
Famed western artist Harold Dow Bugbee served as museum curator for 12 years, from 1956 until his passing in 1963. In 1990 the museum opened a replica of Bugbee’s art studio.
The museum houses a large portion of western artist Frank Reaugh’s collection, with Reaugh stressing the tranquil harmony of nature in his art. The museum also inherited Olive Vandruff Bugbee’s $1 million estate in 2003.