History of the Museum of the Southwest

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In 1965, a handful of civic visionaries imagined the possibility of a small museum to serve their remote West Texas town. From that brilliant beginning emerged the Museum of the Southwest, a community asset for culture, science, families and education for almost fifty years.

The Museum of the Southwest was incorporated on September 25, 1965, after the Junior League of Midland voted to establish an art and science museum, and pledged support for the institution over a five-year period. With the League's planning and the support of the people of Midland, the Museum opened in 1966. Governor John Connolly cut the ribbon opening the facility at 3201 West Wall Avenue to great enthusiasm by everyone in the community.  After a short stay on Wall Avenue, the Museum moved to 26 Village Circle in 1966, and then to its present location in the Turner Mansion in July of 1968.  After the mansion and stables became the home of the Museum, the property was expanded in 1970 with the addition of the Thomas Gallery and in 1987 with the addition of the Lissa Noël Wagner Wing, which added much needed exhibition space, collection storage, preparation and art-handling spaces. In 1972, a grant from the Blakemore Foundation allowed the Museum to build a Planetarium. The building, designed by noted architect Frank Welch, won the Texas Society of Architects' Award for Excellence.  It was renovated and expanded in 2009 and is named in honor of Marian Blakemore.  In 1986, after a Junior League community needs assessment determined that a children's museum would benefit Midland, Fredda Turner Durham gave a generous donation to assure the development of a new facility which was named in her honor. The Children's Museum was built on neighboring property given to the Museum by a patron.  The Museum was accredited by the AAM in June 1992, and again in 2002.  The Museum is governed by a  Board of Trustees and has a full and part-time staff of around 20.

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Today, the Museum of the Southwest’s five-acre campus is comprised of four buildings totalling over fifty thousand square feet of space for the community, including over sixteen thousand feet of galleries and a collection comprised of more than 40 thousand works of art and archaeological items.  The Museum is the host of numerous events for the community, over 20 exhibitions per year and a favorite place of visitors near and far for art exhibitions, astronomy programs, musical evenings, festivals and many other activities.  

Turner Mansion - Police PhotoBefore the Museum of the Southwest
Before it became the home of the Museum of the Southwest, the property and its buildings were the residence of Juliette and Fred Turner and their daughters Fredda Turner Durham and Dorothy Turner Scharbauer.  Mr. Turner was a wildcatter who discovered vacancies on properties in West Texas and made application to the State for control of those properties.  After many years in the courts, Mr. Turner was eventually victorious and became the owner of land that was at that time the largest known oil reserves in the world.  He built on this success with subsequent dealings in properties and drilling, a large ranch in New Mexico and other business endeavors.


Fred and JulietteWith his success, Mr. Turner purchased twelve lots in the neighborhood west of downtown Midland.  He and Mrs. Turner engaged the architect Anton F. Korn, Jr., known primarily for his residential designs in the Highland Park area of Dallas, to design a home for the property.  For the Turner family, Korn designed a home in the Eclectic style which in this case combined elements and inspiration from Tudor, Georgian, Art Deco, American Colonial, Mediterranean and other architectural styles into a harmonious and elegant contemporary design.  The luxurious home, which cost $250,000 to build in 1936, still features many of the unique fixtures and details that made it the showplace of Midland when it was completed.  In addition to a powder room and guest suite with bath on the first floor, the second floor of the home featured a master suite with his and hers bathroom, ladies dressing room and gentleman’s closet; four additional bedrooms; three additional bathrooms; and two terraces.  It was the first home in Midland to have a swimming pool and the grounds also featured a tennis court as well as stables for the Turner’s Derby-winning horses.  The interior spaces feature a repetition of a star motif in both the architectural details and hardware, different tiles and designs for each of the bathrooms and a library paneled with wood from a single tree.  The exterior of the home is comprised of  intricate brickwork, decorative copper downspouts and a ceramic tile roof. 



museum openThe mansion was the primary residence for Mr. and Mrs. Turner until their deaths 1964 and 1963, respectively.  After, their heirs made a gift of the home to the Museum of the Southwest to use for exhibition, programs and activities for the people of Midland, Texas.  Both Fredda Turner Durham and Dorothy Turner Scharbauer, and in turn their families, continue to support the work and mission of the institution.

In September of 1988 the Turner Mansion and Stables were recognized as national historic landmarks and were listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Although some spaces have been adapted for use by the Museum since 1968, including two additions, every effort has been made to preserve the many details that illustrate the care and thought given to this home by its original owners.

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