The “William Behringer Memorial Museum” opened July 5th, 1950 showing off the collections of a late world traveler. Visitors would see a mounted stuffed life- sized black bear, birds, small game, the emblematic two-headed calf, American Indian artifacts and other unforgettable “curiosities.”
Also seen was the elegant streetcar “Kentucky.” Built in 1892, it had just been retired from public use and has since been restored. Streetcar lines had connected the river cities–centers of service and heavy industry and multi-ethnic urban life.
Under the first curator, Ellis Crawford, the museum co-sponsored nearby digs which yielded many more artifacts including large paleo bones from historic Big Bone Springs.
In 1979-80, after adding fire safety and restoration components, the museum reopened as the Behringer-Crawford Museum. Staff and volunteers increased public programming–Junior Curator archeology, arts, crafts and visual and performing arts. Permanent displays showed natural history, archeology, paleontology, mineralogy, rivers and steamboats, industry, folk art, politics, frontier home life, the Civil War and slavery. Special temporary exhibits added other attractions.
A regional museum, BCM has documented historic Civil War battery sites in three counties, including those in Devou Park.
In the early 1990s the museum built an outdoor amphitheater where people enjoy an annual freshART auction and a weekly summer concert series. During the holiday season, children, parents and grandparents enjoy watching the very popular toy trains and pushing the many interactive electrical buttons.
The region has been a hub for Rivers, Roads, Rails and Runways. In the last decade BCM added 15,000 square feet–adopting the theme of “Transportation.”
Other incisive themes include immigration, tourism and entertainment, municipal and regional planning and the local arts heritage.
The museum meets the standards set by the Americans for Disabilities Act. Newly renovated to better educate and entertain, Behringer-Crawford Museum will be 70 years old in 2020.
— John Boh, historian