The Briscoe Center is gearing up for a busy fall. We’re particularly excited about the what’s happening this October at the Sam Rayburn Museum, when we unveil a complete upgrade of the museum’s exhibits.
The Sam Rayburn Museum, located in Bonham, Texas, is of great importance to the Briscoe Center and its mission. It is a keystone of our Congressional and Political History Collections, not only because of the papers and personal library of House Speaker Sam Rayburn. The museum itself, which opened in 1957, is an important educational resource for the Bonham community and features an exact replica of the office of the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives during Rayburn’s tenure in that position. Thanks to the support of Congressman Ralph Hall, an appropriation was made to the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to fund the complete renovation of the Rayburn Museum’s exhibits.
The Briscoe Center staff in Bonham and Austin have spent countless hours developing these new exhibits, poring over the Rayburn Papers and our other political collections to locate the most significant items to illustrate the life and legacy of Sam Rayburn. Working closely with exhibit designers Riggs Ward Design, the award-winning team that created our recent exhibit on Walter Cronkite, and political historian Dr. Nancy Beck Young, we’ve been able to upgrade the exhibits entirely. We’ll explore Rayburn’s life and career, and also depict the importance of the role of the Speaker of the House. Visitors will encounter such topics as Rayburn’s relationships with other national leaders, his political style and tactics, and specific examples of how his efforts shaped national policy, such as New Deal reforms and leadership during World War II.
The renovation also enabled important conservation work on some of the Rayburn Museum’s treasures, including two historical items Rayburn brought to Bonham from the U.S. House of Representatives: an American flag that hung behind the Speaker’s Rostrum and a portion of the House’s seat row (circa 1900s). We’re also introducing the Archives Explorer, an interactive exhibit that brings the Briscoe Center’s political collections to visitors in an entirely new way.
We invite you to join us in Bonham for what promises to be a fitting commemoration of Mr. Sam’s legacy.
Our excitement over the newly refurbished exhibits is dimmed by the loss of an important advocate of the Rayburn Museum. The Briscoe Center is greatly saddened by the recent death of Martha Dye, Sam Rayburn’s niece. As the last near relative of Speaker Rayburn, Martha was actively involved in the Museum, and we were always grateful for her steadfast help and support. She will be missed.
Don E. Carleton, Ph.D.
J. R. Parten Chair in the Archives of American History