Reports emanating from the Texas Panhandle have alarmed me greatly.
The Texas Observer, a progressive publication based in Austin, reports that the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum is in trouble. It might close its doors. The PPHM needs money, lots of it. The Texas Legislature has cut back on its funding levels for what is considered to be the state’s finest historical museum.
Please, I do not want this jewel to close. I want it to survive. I have no clue as to how this can be done, other than to implore the Texas Panhandle community to step up, dig deeply and find it within its means to keep the doors open.
I no longer live in the Panhandle but my interest in this marvelous exhibit remains strong.
The PPHM sits on the West Texas A&M University campus in Canyon, about 15 miles south of Amarillo. My wife and I have been through it many times over many years. Everyone who visited us when we lived in Amarillo got a tour of the PPHM, and every one of our visitors came away greatly impressed by its quality.
The Texas Standard, affiliated with National Public Radio, reports:
Rose Cahalan is managing editor of the Observer and the author of that story, and she says Panhandle-Plains is the largest history museum in Texas by size and by number of artifacts.
“They’ve got about 3 million [artifacts],” Cahalan says. “Even if you’ve never visited, you’ve likely seen their artifacts. … Other museums draw on them all the time.”
She says several museum professionals she spoke to for the story consider it to be a world-class museum.
This is probably small comfort for the PPHM, but the Texas Standard reports that other university-affiliated museums are experiencing cuts in legislative financing: Panhandle-Plains isn’t the only university-affiliated museum dealing with funding woes.
According to the Texas Standard: The Texas Memorial Museum on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin is struggling, too. Cahalan says that museum lost all of its funding from UT in 2013, and its director told her that he’s merely trying “to keep the doors open” these days. But she says the situation at Panhandle-Plains isn’t quite as dire, at least not yet.
The PPHM issued a statement via Facebook saying it is not closing, but acknowledged that funding levels have declined. The museum is preparing a new budget, the statement said.
I do hope the museum survives. The Texas Panhandle needs this exhibit to show off its rich history — under one roof.