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Best Local History & Culture in Austin

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The Texas Military Forces Museum is an extensive museum that documents the story of the Texan military over the years, and the important contributions that they have made. One can find a number of rare exhibits here, that include pieces from the Texan Revolution and the Spanish-American War as well. The gallery is huge, and is divided into sections such as Main Gallery, Lost Battalion, Great Hall, World War II Pacific Theater Exhibit and Air Guard Gallery. The Armor Row and Artillery Park on the museum grounds consists of a vast collection of guns, tanks and aircraft. The museum also includes a library and movie room, making it interesting for visitors of every age.

Built in 1853 by Abner Cook, the master builder of the Governor's Mansion, this Greek Revival-style home is made with Texas limestone. Originally built as the Washington Hill House, the two-storey structure is now a museum. Operated by the Colonial Dames of America, the museum is furnished with 19th-century reproductions of 18th-century French antiques. Historic documents dating from 1770-1900 are also housed here. A visit to the museum makes for an informative experience for kids and adults alike.

Short story writer William Sydney Porter, whose pen name was O. Henry, lived in this home for three years while he spent time in Austin. It was constructed in 1891 and is filled with rare books, O. Henry's writing desk, original furniture, photographs, personal belongings and the chairs that brought The Gift of the Magi to life. Enjoy a guided tour and learn about the history of this home and its famous occupant. The house has been moved twice since from its original location at 308 East Fourth Street. It now features a gift shop with books, videotapes and more. The museum offers writing clubs for Austin children and sponsors many local events such as the Victorian Christmas celebration and the "O. Henry Pun-Off." Admission is free, but donations are welcome.

A 35-foot (10.7 meters) bronze Lone Star sculpture greets visitors at the entrance of this epic museum. This place narrates the story of Texas, sharing its rich cultural heritage and traditions. The three floors of the impressive building present interactive exhibits, special effects shows and more. On the first floor, you will find a permanent exhibit called Encounters on the Land, which highlights the first meetings between Native Americans and European explorers. The second and third floors have exhibits that showcase the evolution of Texas from the time of its inception. The museum boasts a total of 17 media installations and over 700 artifacts, not to mention Austin's only IMAX Theater.

As the first neighborhood museum in the state dedicated to African American history and culture, this 1926 structure houses various forms of art. The center was once Austin's main library and received a Texas State Historical Marker in 1976. The museum is named in honor of Dr. George Washington Carver, former slave who went on to become a renowned botanist and inventor. The museum exhibits a fantastic collection, as well changing exhibits of black history and culture in Austin and Travis County.

Centrally located in downtown Austin, this museum features works that have a connection to Mexico and Latin America. Exhibits range from art to theater. The permanent collection includes artifacts and photographs relating to Mexican-American culture. Recent exhibits include photographs from the 1910 Mexican Revolution and other works by Mexican artists. Guest artists and performers tackle contemporary issues such as ethnicity, religion and politics. A small gift shop carrying books, artwork and handmade imports is located near the entrance.

The Joseph & Susanna Dickinson Hannig Museum is located right in the middle of downtown Austin, but is still a hidden gem. This place was the home of Susanna Dickinson, who was the one of the two survivors of the Battle of Alamo, the second being her little daughter. This rubble rock style house provides one a good glimpse into her life after the battle, being the house where she settled with her fifth husband. There are other artifacts relating to local Texan history, as well as temporary exhibitions held on different subjects.

For those interested in dinosaurs and rocks, this is a great museum for you. Texas Memorial Museum focuses on collections of Texas and the New World, including an extensive Texas Natural History collection and core collections from the 1936 Texas Centennial celebrations. There is a huge variety of artifacts supporting historical and anthropological research, including collections amassed by faculty, staff and students. New artifacts are continuously added, so repeat visits are highly recommended. Admission is free.

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