The Historic Sites Division works to update the exhibits and interpretation of the sites it manages with the most current historic research available. The goal of these changes is to give visitors experiences with the real stories of each site featuring accurate and compelling information. Formats include gallery installations, audio-visual presentations, interactive components, improved historic interiors, and exterior interpretive signs. Historic sites with recent exhibit improvements include the following:
The Fulton Mansion History and Education Center contains compelling exhibits with interactive components telling the Fulton family story. The family's ties to the Republic of Texas are explored through a recounting of George Fulton's arrival at the end of the Texas Revolution and the role of his future father-in-law, Henry Smith, as the young republic's Secretary of the Treasury. George and Harriett Smith Fulton's lives are explored in the exhibit as the growing family moves to the East Coast and midwest following George's successful career path as a structural engineer and inventor. Ultimately, Harriet's inheritance of land along the Texas coast leads the family to return to the area, where they develop a thriving cattle ranch and build their home, Oakhurst, which is now the Fulton Mansion State Historic Site. Details of their ranching operations and the flourishing social life they led in Rockport, Texas, are explored through interactive components.
At Casa Navarro State Historic Site in San Antonio, the new gallery-style and interactive installations highlight José Antonio Navarro's role in early Texas history and politics. Navarro's life is explored from his childhood education in Saltillo, Mexico, through his career as a merchant and lawyer. The exhibit highlights his dedication to the cause of Texas independence from Mexico, which led to his involvement in the formation of both the Republic of Texas and its early statehood as a legislator and orator. He became the strongest proponent of equal rights for Tejano citizens in the mid-19th century. Many of Navarro's own speeches and letters are brought to life in the exhibit through audio-visual presentations. Visitors also explore daily life in early San Antonio and a typical Tejano home of the time through the sights and sounds of a traditional kitchen.
The Starr Family Home State Historic Site in Marshall is reinterpreted with improved authentic historic interiors that highlight the daily life of a prosperous Texas family in the late 19th century. As an important land agent during early statehood, Frank Starr built a business that led to financial success and the construction of Maplecroft as the home for his wife Clara and their growing family of six daughters. The well documented period interiors of the newly restored home showcase original family furnishings that reflect the Starr period of affluence between 1875 and 1900. The role of a teacher hired for the Starr daughters, and the work of the family's domestic servants are also explored. The new exhibits include a rotating gallery where themes about social and family life of the era are explored.
At Fannin Battleground State Historic Site a new gallery exhibit and exterior interpretive signage tell the story of this important battle of the Texas Revolution. This pivotal battle is explored from the events that led up to it through the fateful outcome that saw the traumatic defeat and subsequent execution of Colonel James Fannin and his troops. The events of the battle are highlighted through an interactive map of the battle showing the movement of both Texian and Mexican forces during the engagement. Archeological evidence of the battle is presented and the memorialization of the battle site by the surrounding community is explored through historic photographs on interpretive panels placed throughout the site.
Sabine Pass Battleground's new pavilion exhibit and exterior signage explain the site's military role in the Civil War and beyond, including a scale model of the 1863 Confederate fort. The military and industrial development of the area is explored from its role in blockade running during the Civil War to its strategic position in coastal defense during the 20th century. The fort model, troop movement diagrams, and custom artwork are designed to give visitors a full understanding of the decisive 1863 Confederate victory over a Federal naval attack, and the influential role it played in boosting Southern morale.
The walking beam from the steam engine on the USS Clifton, a Union navy vessel that took part in the Battle of Sabine Pass and subsequently sank in the waters near the Confederate fort, has been successfully installed at Sabine Pass Battleground State Historic Site. It now serves as an important feature in the interpretation of the 1863 battle, which ended in a decisive Confederate victory.
Located adjacent to a recently installed interpretive panel about the USS Clifton, the walking beam provides a view for visitors out across the waters of Sabine Pass where the gunship sank 150 years ago. The walking beam is now an important component of the site’s interpretation of the 1863 Battle of Sabine Pass.
The walking beam, which was displayed in Beaumont’s Keith Park since 1911, underwent a yearlong conservation and stabilization process at the Conservation Research Lab at Texas A&M University. The conservation arrested 150 years of rust and environmental damage before the beam was installed at Sabine Pass Battleground.