A guide to the small museums of Amarillo: It sounds easy enough. But you have to go into Amarillo’s side attractions knowing that many of these places keep hours that would have the most dedicated volunteer checking and rechecking schedules. Yet, beyond the calculation of operating hours, Amarillo offers up a host of interesting centers worth seeking out. In fact, as much as these places have unique historical or aesthetic items on view, they provide diverse perspectives on our distinct community.
Volunteer staffers at the Amarillo Museum of Art joke that they ”are the best-kept secret in Amarillo.” While not alone in this sentiment among other small museums, the Amarillo Museum of Art provides shows that compete with the largest metroplex offerings. Formed in 1967, the Museum of Art switches out events about every six weeks, in addition to keeping permanent exhibits. The ample building lets its stunning displays stand out. They revolve from student art and traveling shows to world-renown paintings and sculptures found in the archives of Amarillo’s art collectors.
The Amarillo College Natural History Museum can take you into the depths of an African safari or through the lives of local fauna. This diverse and expansive collection has been made possible by dedicated curators and a surprisingly accomplished class of Amarillo residents who have contributed impressive animal mounts from throughout the world. The Natural History Museum’s list of displays and educational tools is extensive. A new facility allows you to take it all in, from prolific butterfly collections and an informative reference library to mounts of mammals, fish and birds.
Tucked between the Diocese of Amarillo’s school and cathedral complex is a small building containing the history of catholic involvement in the Panhandle. The Catholic Museum Archives Building has a fascinating collection that ranges from reliquaries, pectoral crosses and clappers used during Lent to photographs of past priests and congregations. The variety in this small building allows you to be slowly tugged toward a larger infatuation: books dating back hundreds of years (some occasionally on sale), a bust of Pope Pius XI and a replica of a Vietnamese refugee boat.
The English Field Air & Space Museum qualifies as the ”most difficult to find” small museum, assuming it hasn’t already moved and the display is still open. Regardless, the Air & Space Museum offers up an impressively large conglomeration of war aircraft, nuclear missiles, rocket boosters and practice spacecraft. You get a close-up look at these inspired displays and even get to climb inside a large military airplane, especially fun for children. The early-20th-century, wooden hangars alone at this site are worth the trip. Once you find this museum, you’ll go away wishing you’d known about it sooner.
One of the premier attractions in Amarillo is the American Quarter Horse Heritage Center & Museum. This impressive structure is the nation’s central point for showcasing the history of the American Quarter Horse. From equestrian artwork and cowboy on-the-range gear to interactive children’s programs, this museum has something of interest for every horse lover plus the added glimpse into how Amarillo’s first citizens lived.
Architectural buffs wanting to peek into the lives of Amarillo’s rich and famous past can call to tour The Harrington House. In its day, this house survived visits from Clark Gable and other famous personalities. Presently, it entertains the revolving display of thousands of personal effects, including photographs, sets of china and period furniture. The Harrington House wins the award for the most restrictive access but it is well worth adhering to the ”code of tour” to partake in an impressive slice of the Texas Panhandle.
The Tornado Museum, located out-front of the Big Texan, offers photos and interactive displays. Yeah, it’s an odd little tornado deal, but it’s the kind of attraction that will satisfy your curiosity and you’ll catch yourself telling your friends about it. While in itself a prime candidate to be picked up like Dorothy’s house in a twister, or maybe even in a stiff breeze, inside this museum is a whirlwind of tornado history and trivia.
Providing horticultural and gardening information for the region, Amarillo Botanical Gardens serves up a feast for the eyes and olfactory senses. Exhibits include herbs, flowers, pond plants and much more. This is a ”living” museum with easy access that can be enjoyed by all. It is truly a breath of fresh air for all of your senses.
The Black Historical Culture Center provides a focus for what the name implies. While photos and other items line the walls, this unique center mostly provides an events center complete with stage.