“When I was growing up, my mother would take me to plays and museums, and we’d talk about life.
Those times helped shape who I became.”
— Jill Scott, American singer-songwriter and actress
Downtown El Paso is a mecca for art, science and history enthusiasts with attractions that include the El Paso Museum of History, the El Paso Museum of Art, the El Paso Holocaust Museum and Study Center, the Insights El Paso Science Center, and the Magoffin Home State Historic Site. But the fun doesn’t stop there. The Sun City has a plethora of museums where newcomers can learn more about the region, it’s past and it’s people.
In no particular order, here’s a look at the museums that call El Paso home.
El Paso Museum of History
510 N. Santa Fe St.
This 44,000-square-foot building, one of three city-operated museums, which has 16,000 square feet of exhibition space, takes guests through 400 years of history on the U.S.-Mexican border. The expansive downtown building was constructed after El Paso voters approved a $6.5 million bond to fund the project in 2000. Staff and exhibits moved into the new building in 2007. In addition to insightful exhibits that provide an window’s view into our past, the El Paso Museum of History offers adult classes in photography and folklorico, and summer camps for the kids, which include ghost tours and tales of southwest folklore.¡Mira, El Cucuy!
El Paso Museum of Art
1 Arts Festival Plaza
Founded in 1959, the El Paso Museum of Art is today home to a permanent collection of more than 6,000 works of original art. Since it’s downtown location opened in 1998, the museum opens it’s doors to approximately 80,000 visitors every year. Municipally funded and also city-operated, the El Paso Museum of Art is the only accredited art museum within a 250-mile radius and serves the world’s largest international border community of approximately 2.6 million people. Collections at the museum include American, contemporary, European and Mexican. Original pieces by local artists are also on display.
El Paso Holocaust Museum & Study Center
715 N. Oregon St.
As the only fully bilingual Holocaust museum and one of only 13 free-standing Holocaust museums in the U.S., the El Paso Holocaust Museum and Study Center has a lot to offer. The mission of the museum is to combat prejudice and intolerance by educating the public about the millions of people who were killed by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Regime from 1933 to 1945. In addition to permanent exhibits, the museum also offers speaker presentations, educational workshops, a summer camp, and an annual Holocaust Remembrance Commemoration. A nonprofit organization with just four staff members and a handful of volunteers, the museum does not charge admission but welcomes donations.
Insights El Paso Science Center
521 Tays St.
Insights is a museum dedicated to inspiring a curiosity in youth for the STEM subjects – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. In 1993, Insights moved into its permanent location, a 14,000-square-foot building in downtown. Once moved, the museum expanded to include a stargazing observatory on the roof, a historic clock tower, and a large Tesla Coil. The museum also hosts travelling exhibits.
Magoffin Home State Historic Site
1117 Magoffin Ave.
Walk into the Magoffin Home and you’ll find yourself taking a stroll through the Old West. The house was once home to Joseph Magoffin, Civil War veteran and banker who held several political titles in El Paso’s local government, and his family in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Joseph and his wife Octavia moved into the home in 1877, when El Paso was a small frontier town. The socialites often entertained at the house, an expansive white adobe building of Spanish and Territorial architecture with a hint of Greek Revival style architecture. The home stayed in the Magoffin family until 1986, when Joseph’s granddaughter Octavia passed away.
International Museum of Art
1211 Montana Ave.
Located in the Turney Mansion on Montana, built circa 1910, is the International Museum of Art. Featuring exhibits of local and international art, the museum has been a prominent part of the city’s art community since the building, the biggest home in El Paso designed by renowned architect Henry C. Trost, was deeded to the City of El Paso in 1940. Before becoming the International Museum of Art, the building was home to the Turneys, a couple that was used the home for civic functions and visiting dignitaries. During the Pancho Villa events in Juarez, friends of the Turneys would stay at the house, where the basement was well stocked with ammunition and food. With an interior that includes marble flooring, a grand wooden staircase and stained glass windows, the building is a well preserved and shows like it did in the early 19th century. In addition to art, the museum also has a Mexican Revolution exhibit.
El Paso Museum of Archaeology
4301 Transmountain Road
Free tours of the El Paso Museum of Archaeology every Saturday will take you through 14,000 years of prehistory in the Southwest. Exhibits show depictions of Native Americans, from the Paleoindian hunters of the Ice Age to their modern descendants. Articfacts on display include pottery, flaked stone, ground stone and perishable objects, such as ancient basketry and sandals from the Mogollon, Casas Grandes, and Anasazi cultures. Located on 15 acres, the museum also includes more than 250 varieties of plants native to the Chihuahuan Desert. An outdoor gazebo is available for rent for family picnics and small group activities.
National Border Patrol Museum
4315 Woodrow Bean
In 1985, the Border Patrol Museum opened in the basement of the Cortez Building in El Paso, but was then closed in 1992 due to a dispute with the landlord. The museum then acquired two acres of land from the City of El Paso on the old Casner Range, and this is where the new building, that now houses the museum, was constructed in 1994. Despite the fact that the museum does not receive government funds to operate and does not charge an admission fee, the museum has remained free of debt since inception. The museum takes visitors through 91 years of Border Patrol history. The prominent display in the museum is the Memorial Room, which honors 120 agents killed in the line of duty.
Fort Bliss Museum and Study Center
Building 1735 on Marshall Road
At the end of the Mexican War, the United States government established in the mid 19th century. The Fort Bliss Museum and Study Center has displays that tell the history of the fort and its role in the Mexican Revolution. Displays contain photos and artifacts from varying time periods. Displays also inform visitors on the Civil War, World War I and World War II. Admission is free.
Other articles by Meagen O'Toole-Pitts