When Houston Maritime Museum founder James L. Manzolillo moved to Houston in 1979, he found the city to be an ideal location for establishing a living, breathing monument to maritime history. As a host to the second-largest port in the United States, Houston provides a fitting backdrop for an institution that preserves the legacy of the intrepid individuals who explored the waters about which Manzolillo has always been passionate. Housed inside the former home of retired Navy lieutenant commander John Luykx, the Houston Maritime Museum's collection contains 150 model battleships, paddleboats, and submersibles as well as 100 maritime artifacts such as astrolabes, nautical quadrants, and sextants. An exhibit dedicated to the Port of Houston displays the port's history through artifacts and photos, and illustrates the port's significance to the local and national economy. Guided tours are conducted with advanced registration to allow visitors to learn little-known facts without having to forge the naval-officer secret handshake.
John and Dominique de Menil began collecting art in the 1940s, shortly after they had relocated from France to the United States. It didn't take long for the couple to amass nearly 16,000 paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, and rare books. Tired of tripping over Byzantine statues on the way to the kitchen, the de Menils decided to share their collection with the world.
The result is The Menil Collection, which opened in 1987 and has since become a fixture of Houston's Museum District. Here, visitors can browse priceless artworks and artifacts with origins that span the globe. With its minimalistic exterior and sweeping stretches of glass, the building itself is also something of a masterpiece. This is no accident?Dominque de Menil made sure that its design allowed for plenty of natural light to enhance visitors' experience and help the artworks grow big and strong.
Nestled within the original art-deco terminal at the William P. Hobby Airport, The 1940 Air Terminal Museum traces the heritage of civil and business aviation throughout the 20th century. Memorabilia such as photographs and silver service items chart aviation’s progress, and outside the terminal building, guests can monitor airport activity or marvel at the museum’s daily air shows and plane versus bald-eagle drag races. Elsewhere onsite, the newly restored 1928 Carter Field Airmail Hangar—closed on most weekends—shelters historic aircrafts including a Lockheed Lodestar and a volunteer-restored St. Louis Helicopter. Throughout the year, the museum also hosts frequent annual events, including a monthly Wings and Wheels open house with static airplane and automobile displays.
The 14-acre Bayou Bend estate, the former abode of philanthropist and informal First Lady of Texas Ima Hogg, was finished in 1928 and donated to Houston's Museum of Fine Arts by 1957. Hogg then transformed her mansion into a de facto museum, accumulating one of the largest collections of American decorative art in the world. The nearly 5,000 masterly pieces range from furniture to ceramics, and in age from Colonial America all the way to the end the Civil War.
It might seem strange to see a Gutenberg Bible page pulled using mid-1400s technology, or
the Declaration of Independence being printed on an authentic 19th-century iron hand-press. At The Printing Museum, where local artists give live demonstrations of real, working artifacts, these sights are almost commonplace. In its mission to preserve and share the history of
written communication, the organization functions as part museum and part interactive classroom. A permanent collection highlights preserved prints and
gear from around the world?from ancient
Mesopotamian clay tablets to Civil War-era
newspapers. This collection even includes a display of equipment and documents belonging to Texas' first printer.
However, the museum's four galleries and
14,000 square feet of space aren't just reserved for
relics. Every year, staff curate 12 rotating exhibits that, in the past, have covered the work of
contemporary printmakers and photographers or explored the evolution of modern printing around the world. Meanwhile, an on-site print shop holds hands-on, all-ages workshops in typography,
paper-making, and other forms of print-based art.
The Houston Fire Museum celebrates the blaze-battling bravery of Houston's early firefighters as well as the tools they used in their line of work.
Historical exhibits such as the 1937 Chevrolet pumper truck and the
1895 Ahrens Fox horse-drawn steamer give guests a look at the earliest fire trucks. During guided tours, visitors can follow the steps of a 1950s firefighter as he responds to a call.
But the museum is more than just a history of firefighting. Guests can soak up practical fire-prevention tips and learn how to draft an escape plan for their own home. In the Junior Firehouse, kids can host birthdays, where they
dress in miniature bunker coats and slide down an authentic fire station pole padded at the bottom with gym mats and a pile of friendly, furry dalmatians.