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Museum of art and history collection

Identifier: 2013-003

Scope and Contents

This collection contains materials which document the history of the defunct Museum of Art and History that was housed on the campus of the Southwest Texas State Teachers College from 1937-1965. Materials include correspondence, accession records books, newspaper clippings, photographs, artifacts, and financial records.

The correspondence and accession records, combined with biographical information about a few of the featured artists, trace the growth and change of the University Museum’s exhibition scope from the first acquisition of art in 1940 to the last recorded attempt in 1950. Noteworthy is correspondence and information related to Texas visual artists and printmakers of the time period. The news clippings contain news articles that further trace the activities and development of the museum, and reveal exhibitions and events held at other Texas museums during this time period. The photographs consist of early photos of the University and students. There are also brochures and newsletters from Southwest Texas State Teachers College and other universities and cultural heritage organizations in Texas.

This collection is arranged in four series: I. Administrative material, 1937-1957, 1982, undated, II. Correspondence, 1941-1950, III. Printed material and artifacts, 1940-1946, undated, IV. Financial material, 1942-1951.


  • 1937-1957, 1982, undated
  • Majority of material found within 1940-1957


Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers without restriction.

Conditions Governing Use

Special Collections and Archives owns the physical items in our collections, but copyright normally belongs to the creator of the materials or their heirs. The researcher has full responsibility for determining copyright status, obtaining permission to publish from copyright holders, and abiding by current copyright laws when publishing or displaying copies of Special Collections and Archives material in print or electronic form.

Historical note

In the 1930s, the Texas Legislature envisioned a series of museums housed at colleges around the state that would feature Texas history. A Museum of Art and History opened its doors at Southwest Texas State Teachers College in 1937 under the supervision of Professor H.H. Goodman and A.C. Burkholder. Originally housed in a small room in the Science building, the museum displayed items including World War I guns, helmets, swords, American rifles, and revolvers, as well as Native American articles and an old graphophone. A few years later, display cases were set up in the hall of the Science building to better display the collection.

By 1938, Minnie Sanford took over as the curator and moved the growing museum to room 304 in the library. Though the museum continued to acquire relics from Texas history, the museum was still very modest, having only saw horses and boards as display cases. In September of 1941 Dudley R. Dobie became the museum director and added his own collection of Native American artifacts and pioneer Texas relics.

In 1943, the museum expanded into room 303 of the library. It housed articles including, saddles, whips, a buggy, whale oil lamps, and a Native American headdress. The archives department of the museum had various items like the historical papers of Stephen F. Austin from 1828, photographs, maps, scrapbooks of Texas History, and journals. Though some of the museum collection was purchased, ex-students, faculty members, and citizens of San Marcos donated many items in the collection. Acquisitions records were kept in detail through 1940, and less precisely in subsequent years.

In 1965, the State Legislature cut off funding for the maintenance and upkeep of the museum and the museum collection was transferred to the Hays County Historical Survey Committee (presently known as the Hays County Historical Commission). Once the museum had switched hands it was renamed the “Texas Museum of History.” Although it had a new name, the museum was not able to establish a place in the community of San Marcos. In fact, the name was considered by many to have “too grandiose a ring for the rather modest collection of historical artifacts.”

Finding storage space for the collection of artifacts appraised at $13,000 was a constant battle that was finally lost in April of 1983. The artifacts were initially stored in the National Guard Armory in 1965; over the years they were moved to storage space in Henry Kyle office building, then to a warehouse at the Gary Job Corp, to the old City Hall Building. It was here in 1976 that the collection was shown as part of the bicentennial celebration. This success lasted almost two years but was forced to move so that the city could sell the old City Hall building. Finally, the museum artifacts were moved to a storage unit until the old Fish Hatchery could be restored and turned into the new museum.

Due to a lack of funding and the inability of the University or the Heritage Association to assist in the cost of building restoration, the Hays County Historical Survey Committee, now known as the Hays County Historical Commission, had no choice but to drop the museum project.

Source: "Texas Museum of History: Going Down for the Last Time, A San Marcos Daily Record Special Report," Sunday, April 17, 1983.


2.04 Linear Feet (One 5" legal document case, one 2.5" legal document case, one 11"x17" flat box, one 5"x12" index card box. )

Language of Materials



Collection documents part of the defunct Museum of Art and History. Materials include correspondence, accession records books, newspaper clippings, photographs, artifacts, and financial records. The museum, established on the campus of Southwest Texas State Teachers College in 1937, closed suddenly in 1965 after the State Legislature cut off funding for the maintenance and upkeep. The collection was then transferred to the Hays County Historical Survey Committee which intended to create a Texas Museum of History.

The most prosperous years of the museum were between the late 1930s and the early 1960s. From 1965 until 1983, "the collection -- diminished with every move though loss, theft, vandalism, whatever -- has been stored at 12 different sites in San Marcos." There is no indication as to what may have happened to the collection -- if anything remained -- when the Museum board voted in 1983 to dispand and drop the 18-year project to find a new home for the collection.

Physical Location

Materials may be stored off-site. Advance notice may be required for use.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated to the institution in 1983. Additional items added in 2016.


In 2016, added materials from various sources related to the campus Museum, including from Dudley Dobie's time as museum director, ca. 1941-1951.

In 2021, the card catalog from the museum was transferred by Wittliff Collection to the University Archives.

Related Materials

Images of the museum from 1959 can be found in San Marcos Daily Record photographic negatives collection (100.SMDR). Images are titled as College Museum or Museum SWTSTC.

See also the Gentry Dugat collection, as he donated many items and the collection contains Pages of the Past items that were on display at the museum when it closed.


"Texas Museum of History: Going Down for the Last Time, A San Marcos Daily Record Special Report," special section of the newspaper, published Sunday, April 17, 1983.
  • Medford, Betty. “Museum Failure Leaves a Sad Legacy.” The Daily Record. April 17, 1983.
  • “Chronological History of Museum’s Plight.” The Daily Record. April 17, 1983.
  • Watkins, Jeff. “People Behind the Scenes Felt Frustrations.” The Daily Record. April 17, 1983.
  • Hilldebrant, Gene. “Money: Lack of Funds Closed the Door.” The Daily Record. April 17, 1983.
Museum of Art and History collection
Sandy George
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2016: Revised by Tracey Howerton
  • July 2019: ArchivesSpace migration revisions by Eric Robertson-Gordon
  • 2021 July 8: Revised by Nicole Critchley

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and Archives Repository

Alkek Library Room 580
601 University Drive
San Marcos Texas 78666 USA