Texas Ranger Museum Hires Director of Development | Local News

The Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum plans to add a director of development, with plans to expand its footprint and add modern exhibits.

The new director will travel around the country for most of the year raising funds and applying for grants for the museum, which is the official state museum of the Texas Rangers, an elite state agency that exists under one form or another since the early 1800s. The new manager will report to Lisa Blackmon, Waco’s assistant city manager in charge of tourism.

Museum director Byron Johnson said that without more space and resources at the museum, it’s difficult to cover everything about Rangers history.

Johnson said that since the museum opened in 1964, there has been a significant body of scholarly work that delves into the institution’s history of violence and racism, including the 2020 book “Cult of glory”. Author Doug Swanson said in interviews that he had no intention of tearing down the heroic image of the Rangers, but the more he researched, the more he realized that the Rangers had a darker history than he didn’t think so.

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Johnson noted that the museum has exhibits dealing with this history, such as an exhibit detailing the Porvenir Massacre of 1918.

“They are the only law enforcement agency in the state to serve under five flags,” Johnson said. “They went through periods of doing tremendous service to the state of Texas. They also had darker times, and they had to look at their history and change. Like any organization that has been around for about 200 years, we need to better tell the story of how this happened.

Johnson said he also hopes to offer more modern interactive exhibits.

For years, Johnson and city officials discussed expanding the museum, a building designed to accommodate 20,000 guests a year. Just under 100,000 guests visited the museum in the last full year before the coronavirus pandemic hit in 2020. Johnson said attendance was up about 65% from its pre- pandemic and that around five million people have visited the site since it opened.

Over the past decade, Johnson has said that ideally the Hall of Fame building would be torn down and replaced with a three- or four-story building that stretches out toward I-35.

“It was built in 1976 and it’s getting pretty long in the tooth,” Johnson said. “And it was not built for [museum] industry building standards. It’s basically just a frame structure.

The building also sits on the bank of the Brazos River opposite McLane Stadium. He said that during the flooding, the water came within six feet of the Hall of Fame building.

“We really have to make sure we have the irreplaceable items on the upper floors,” Johnson said.

Books, archives

The museum has launched a bicentenary book series that will end in 2023 and has published 17 titles to date. He said projects like this spark public interest, which leaves the staff of 19 full-timers exhausted.

“I think if we can do what I know these staff can do in terms of producing something on par with what we want to do, I think that’s going to be even more amazing,” Johnson said.

The museum’s archives are housed in its newest building, in low-light, low-temperature rooms to protect old pages.

Archives are a combination of documents, records, photographs, diaries, and other documents sent in by family members. Active Texas Rangers companies also use the Waco Archives as a catch-all for old documents that need to be preserved but can no longer be stored on-site. From time to time, investigators come to the archives to investigate cold cases.

Christina Stopka, deputy director of the museum’s Armstrong Research Center, said the museum has about 90 collections and up to 100,000 objects that occupy about 1,500 square feet of compact shelving.

“Before the new location even opened, the Austin HQ company called us and said ‘we have files that we need to get rid of, but we can’t throw them away.’ The state archives didn’t have room for them,” Stopka said. “So they came here and it was almost 300 boxes of records. It probably takes up a third of my storage space.

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