My kids love the Witte Museum. But they don’t call it that. The name they give it depends upon the most recent special exhibit they’ve seen there. For a time it was the “Dinosaur Museum.” After that they referred to the Witte as the “Bug Museum,” and then the “Fish Museum,” and, most recently, the “Pirate Museum.” Whatever they saw that last captured their imaginations and their attention is how they refer to this beloved place that also boasts one of Texas’ best hands-on science exhibits for children: the HEB Science Treehouse.
But later this month I’m pretty sure the Witte Museum will have yet another new name in our house: the “Cowboy Museum.” On May 26 the Witte celebrates the grand opening of the Robert J. and Helen C. Kleberg South Texas Heritage Center.
As part of a media preview last week I toured this stunning, two-story, 20,000 square foot building, which incorporates the historic Pioneer Hall and now houses the permanent exhibit that showcases the rich and colorful history of South Texas. Like the Witte’s other permanent and special exhibits I’ve visited before it, the South Texas Heritage Center employs really cool interactive technology, including cinematic robots, touch-screen computers, and motion-trigger personas, to bring history to life.
South Texas history is a distant memory for this middle-aged gal (How is it possible that fourth grade was sooooo long ago? I can still hear Kool and the Gang belting out, “Celebrate good times, c’mon!”) so I had a great time wandering around the Center, (re-) learning about the early South Texas ranching empires that still exist to this day. It was also neat to see what Main Plaza looked like in the 1840s and to (re-) learn that for almost a century, San Antonio was the largest city in Texas and a vital hub of commerce in the Southwest.
My kids’ love for the Witte Museum began before they could walk. The engaging exhibits on exciting topics are certainly part of the reason. But I think it’s also the wonderfully creative ways in which the Witte continually combines history with fun and interactive hands-on learning opportunities that have our kids begging us to return again and again. They love getting involved with science and history.
In 2010, our son quivered underneath a huge T-Rex during the Dinosaurs Unearthed exhibit. At just 2 1/2 years old then, he was more than a little scared but he didn’t run away or hide. He still remembers and recites the remarkable things he learned about the dinosaurs that day.
I can’t wait to introduce him and our daughter to the wonders of the South Texas Heritage Center. I’m sure the longhorn steer and the portable jail (“Can I put my sister in there???”) will be hot topics around our house for a long time to come. And, who knows? Because the South Texas Heritage Center is a permanent exhibit, the nickname of “Cowboy Museum” may finally be their nickname for the Witte that sticks.
Admission to the South Texas Heritage Center is included in the price of a Witte Museum ticket ($10 for adults, $9 for seniors, $8 for children ages 4-11, and free for kids 3 and under).
Don’t miss the great variety of family-friendly, grand-opening activities at the South Texas Heritage Center during the holiday weekend of May 26-28.
Visit my full set of photos of the South Texas Heritage Center at the Witte Museum in San Antonio, Texas.
Disclosure: I was invited to attend the media preview of the South Texas Heritage Center at the Witte Museum. I received complimentary admission to the exhibit. I was not asked to photograph or share about our experience. All opinions are my own.
More posts about the South Texas Heritage Center: