The Sam Houston Memorial Museum was recently authorized a $50,000 grant from the Summerlee Foundation for renovations of the museum rotunda and two of the three exhibit galleries.
“We are absolutely thrilled to receive this support from the Summerlee Foundation,” museum director Patrick Nolan said. “The Summerlee Foundation is one of the most respected foundations in Texas. We see the grant money as a very strong endorsement.”
Renovations for the first of the three wings were completed last year and the museum hopes to start renovations on the other two wings in the summer, Nolan said.
Though Nolan received notification of receiving the grant at the end of January, it will not be paid until July 1.
“Most of the original plans were done a year ago,” Nolan said, adding that they have used money from the museum budget for the project so far.
These wing renovations will elaborate on the story of Gen. Sam Houston’s life progressively and interactively through such things as paintings and hands-on artifacts.
“Using exhibits, objects, dioramas, audio-visual techniques and interactive computers, this improvement will create an educational aspect unparalleled to teach future generations about Sam Houston, a genuine Texas hero,” the funding request said.
The new design will also allow visitors to follow a clockwise path that will chronologically approach Houston’s life.
“The way it was laid out before, it was kind of backward,” Nolan said.
When completed, the first wing, or the south wing, will address Houston’s birth and early years. The third wing, to the north, will tell the story of Houston’s career as a Texas senator, governor and his activity in the civil war, Nolan said.
The wing that was completed last year, the west wing, addresses Houston as a hero of Texas, including his participation in the battle of San Jacinto, the Texas Revolution and his presidency of Texas.
“It’s basically a biography, telling the story of his life,” Nolan said.
The project also includes a full roof replacement over the entire museum building, with the exception of the copper dome and the necessary interior electrical work to prepare the galleries for the new exhibits.
Nolan said the renovations include new casing, lighting, paneling and woodwork, among other things, and will bring new artwork to the museum.
“A lot of the artwork (we have now) has to do with text panels, photography and imagery on the walls,” he said. “A lot of it (new art) will be new pictures from files we already have that will be blown up.”
The renovations will completely change the appearance of the museum, according to Nolan.
“Most of the cases and displays were done in the 1950s, so they’re pretty old fashioned,” he said. “It will look different now, brand new.”
The $50,000 grant is just a starting point for the $400,000 project. However, Nolan said the museum will apply for another grant from the foundation next year, as well as explore other funding sources.
“We’re happy to get the money from the Summerlee Foundation because right now it’s a tough time to raise money, with the economy being so bad,” Nolan said.
Nolan said he hopes the project to be finished within two years, pending funding.
The Summerlee Foundation, which is based out of Dallas, is a private, non-profit charitable foundation whose purposes are restricted to programs in animal protection and Texas history. Created in 1988 by Dallas philanthropist Annie Lee Roberts, the foundation awarded approximately $1.95 million in history grants and approximately $2 million in animal grants during 2000 and 2001.