MIDLAND, Texas — If you're going to stop by the Museum of the Southwest in Midland, first, you should understand why the museum exists.
It once belonged to the Turner family. Fred and Juliette Turner moved to Midland in 1926, where Mr. Turner worked as an oil scout. After their deaths, their heirs gifted the mansion, which became what it is today.
The mansion still has some of the original features that you can see for yourself. The family loved horses, and even owned some winners of the Kentucky Derby. One of the rooms holds everything, from the uniforms to the trophies.
"We have a case with Tomy Lee and Alysheba's original Derby trophies," said Executive Director Lori Wesley. "The case is a replica of the steeples at Churchill Downs so you get the whole flavor of the experience, and this is a permanent exhibit for us."
In fact, this exhibit is one of the largest collections of Kentucky Derby memorabilia outside of Churchill Downs.
The stables where the Turner family housed the horses eventually became the Southwest Express Depot. Around Christmas time, you can bring the family to see the massive model train layout.
Walk around the museum, and you'll find some exhibits, including Aliento a Tequila by Joel Salcido. This is a collection of photographs documenting the process of making tequila. You'll also find antique whisky decanters from the collection of Jason Osborne.
One of the holiday exhibits includes multiple paintings of good ol' Saint Nick by Billy Keen.
"He has painted a photo of Santa Claus every year for the past 48 years, so when you come to the exhibit, you can start at 1974 up to 2021," said curator Matt Ward. "Keen is going to stop when he gets to 50. He told us when he gets to 50 he's donating the collection the museum so the tradition can continue."
Right outside the museum is the Blakemore Planetarium, home to their dome theater. With 360 degree views, you can sit back, relax and explore the universe with their dome shows.
But to view our planet, Science on a Sphere shows you what's happening on Earth. Instead of looking at a flat screen, you can see anything From climate change, to atmospheric storms, to other planets, on a physical sphere.
Then, there's the Children's Museum. It'll have interactive exhibits for kids, mostly ever-changing, along with a low-sensory gallery for kids with autistic-needs. Unfortunately, the museum opening is getting pushed back due to supply chain issues. However, museum staff say it will be worth the wait.
For now, there's still a lot to see. That's what makes the Museum of the Southwest so special, is that it brings people from all walks of life. That is part of the goal when it comes to planning the next exhibit.
"I think one thing I hope to bring to the museum is stylistic variety," said Ward. "So there's something for everybody, whether its exhibits that are historical, styles more traditionally southwestern, I also like to feature work that is more modern or abstract, sometimes more conceptual, just so that we have something to offer to everybody."
The museum will be holding a free open house event on Saturday, Dec. 11 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. This is for the whole family, and kids can take part in fun activities.