When the Fort Bend County Museum first opened its doors almost 50 years ago, only some 97,000 people called this area home. Today, there are more than 800,000 people living in Fort Bend County, and the museum simply cannot handle the increase in visitors. The museum also looks its age. So it’s high time to remodel and expand the old girl.
The Fort Bend County History Association, which oversees the museum, announced a capital campaign to raise $2 million to fund the proposed expansion and remodeling of the museum. Almost $750,000 has already been raised.
Tim Kaminski, president of the History Association, said the nonprofit organization hopes to raise the $2 million by the end of the fall so that it can begin construction next February and have the newly remodeled and expanded museum open by the fall of 2020. Details of the project are on display at the museum, located at 500 Houston St. in Richmond.
The project calls for:
An all-new museum exterior – historic, welcoming, and architecturally similar to the historic Moore House located next door. The present museum has no windows and was originally expected to store artifacts. Later, it became the visitor’s gallery it is today. The remodeled museum will include plenty of windows plus a vaulted ceiling that will allow exhibits to be hung from the rafters.
Expanded galleries inside with the ability to tell more stories in memorable, compelling ways (growing from 1,200 static square feet to 3,000 flexible square feet). The east wall of the museum will be pushed outward to the sidewalk to make additional space available
A modular exhibit design approach will enable the space to be opened up as needed to become an event center with a unique historical flavor for groups, weddings, lectures and presentations (up to 150 guests comfortably seated, accommodated, and inspired)
More interactive exhibits – where members, guests, families, and volunteers can explore and engage in a dialogue around diverse stories, voices, and perspectives
Enhanced outdoor patio space – a functional and comfortable link between a history museum and historic home, surrounded by decades of old magnolia trees, and providing additional options for community gatherings and events
The museum doors were opened 47 years ago by community leaders who wanted to preserve the county’s rich heritage, Kaminski explained to a small gathering of community, government and business leaders invited to the capital campaign announcement at the museum.
In 2017, the museum association rebranded itself as the Fort Bend County History Association to better reflect all sites and programs it encompasses, Kaminski said.
Besides the museum, the association oversees education programs at the George Ranch Historical Park, the historic Dew House in Missouri City, and Decker Park in Richmond, and more.
Former Fort Bend County Judge Robert Hebert and wife Pat are helping the association with its fundraising effort.
After leaving government, Hebert has returned full time to his consulting firm.
“Those who know me, know I’m committed to history, and the need to see that our children and new adults to Fort Bend County are exposed to the history of this county, history of Texas and the history of this great nation,” he told the gathering.
“We have this wonderful little asset right here in Richmond, this museum, but it’s 47 years old and showing its age,” he said. “It’s too small. It can’t really handle (the growing number of visitors). It was perfect 47 years ago whenever there was 95-96,000 folks in Fort Bend County, but when there are 800,000 folks — almost 325,000 of them kids — the museum is overworked.”
In addition to the population increase, the museum is also too small to exhibit all its historical artifacts, Hebert said.
“(The History Association) has over 75,000 artifacts, and if you look around the museum you can tell there are not that many artifacts on display,” he said.
The association can’t display the full rich history of the county, Hebert said. Few museums display all their artifacts, but they can increase the number by increasing the space, he said.
“Pat and I both support the expansion project and believe it is long overdue and we’re delighted to be any help that we can.” Kaminski encouraged those invited to the meetings to take what they’ve heard back to their communities, schools and corporations and “get them behind this project.”
“We’re the best kept secret asset in the county,” he said.
For more information on History Rising, contact: Zarinah K. Poole, director of development at zpoole@ fbhistory.org., by calling 281-342- 1256 or contact any of the History Rising committee members: Peggy Bohn, Mandy Bronsell, Kay Danziger, Mary Favre, Aimee Frederick, Rebecca Hafner, Tim Kaminskim Keely Knipling, Marvin Marcell, Steve Nelson, Claire Rogers, Harold Simmons, Paul Spana and Letha Wood