There are a limited number of “official” Texas state historic sites, but every downtown has a unique history and stories that contribute to a sense of place—and a sense of pride. Here are several ways for your community to capitalize on what’s special about your town.
Get kids involved and engaged
According to the Texas State Historical Association website, the Junior Historians of Texas program was started in 1939 by Walter Prescott Webb, not only to engage Texas students in history but also to develop future historians. Today, there are 45 chapters located in middle schools and high schools across the state.
Create your own history station
In 2015, the Anice Read Fund awarded a grant to the City of San Augustine for the purchase and setup of a downtown oral history kiosk. They wanted to give residents the opportunity to record their stories and family histories, and also allow them to scan historic pictures and documents that could be included in archives managed by the Stephen F. Austin State University Center for Regional Heritage Research.
Celebrate your history
Back in 2008, the city of Bastrop celebrated its 175th birthday. This special occasion featured a local heritage event tailored specifically for residents and was scheduled to coincide with the city’s annual Juneteenth celebrations. Over a week, different activities were offered each day to celebrate the community and the diverse cultures that contributed to Bastrop’s growth. Events included historical exhibits, a fair and dance on Main Street, tours of historic churches and the unveiling of a documentary of Bastrop’s history. Activities during each day of the rest of the week included a photography exhibit, a 1950s costume party, a Mexican Fiesta and Juneteenth celebrations. All events were free and open to the public.
Brenham’s Local History Day, started in 2013, makes history come alive by sharing stories of the city’s past with local schoolchildren. The event features costumed actors portraying local heroes who embrace their characters and excite students about history. Organizers are driven by their goal to impart a sense of pride in the community and encourage students to carry the banner of history.
In 2017, a variety of groups and organizations in Plano came together to create a downtown history walk with an intriguing name: Apparition Expedition. During this guided, spooky tour through Historic Downtown Plano, guests are welcomed into historic homes and businesses by costume-clad tour guides. The stories are spooky in nature but draw on actual events of the city’s rich history, which dates to the late 1800s. The event runs for two nights in October and sells out weeks in advance.
Your community’s history likely includes diverse people and cultures. Your events, historical markers and commemorations should represent that diversity. Think about featuring local legends in your events, and invite representatives from different cultures to participate in activities that teach children about your local history. When you celebrate the diversity of your community, everyone will be richer for your efforts.
C. Barker Texas History Collection
University of Texas
Texas Story Project
The Bullock Texas State History Museum
Portal to History
University of North Texas
The Inclusive Historian’s Handbook
American Association for State and Local History & the National Council on Public History