Hometown Pride Tour: Red River Valley Muesum

Hometown Pride Tour

VERNON, TX (KAUZ) - History is a big part of Vernon and Wilbarger County. We found it fascinating to learn that it dates back as far as 280-million years ago. We checked out the Red River Valley Museum and found out that you can go there and learn not only about Wilbarger County, but really this entire part of Texoma.
"The Red River Valley Museum was founded in 1964," said former RRVM Board President and current Board Member Staley Heatly. He knows the history and it all started with Jay Henry Ray and his wife Ethel. 
"They started in the late 20s early 30s and, they had a substantial collection that included over 10,000 different artifacts and they wanted that collection to stay here in Wilbarger County but there wasn't a museum here," said Heatly. 
The Ray's got the museum started. It's current location was not built until the 1980's and it continues to grow with renovation and new exhibits like the Berry Gallery. 
"I think when you walk into those areas of the museum you don't feel like you're in a small town museum, you feel like you're in a facility that's impressive. So, we're excited about that. When you come in that's the first gallery that you go into, and it really tells kind of the chronological history of this area going back to some of the oldest fossils that are 280-million years old through the native artifacts that we have. We have native artifacts that go back 10,000 12,000 13,000 years and come further all the way to the arrival of the Europeans, and so we tell the story of Wilbarger County and this area. Going back thousands and thousands of years, and I think that's an interesting experience to go through that Berry Gallery and see what our history has been like here in Wilbarger County," said Heatly.
The Red River Valley Museum also has an amazing room dedicated to the Waggoner Ranch. It shows the extensive history of the once family owned ranch for a century, including a look at the life of Electra Waggoner. It's quite intriguing. There are some animals. 
"We have the Bond Gallery that has an incredible collection of mounts from all over the world. Over a hundred different animals. Polar bears, lions, tigers, you name it, it's in there," said Heatly. "The kids in particular love the wild game collection. We are hoping in the near future to work on improving that room and make it match up with the Berry Gallery and the foyer."
As the museum continues to get foundation grants and donations from the community, they hope to continue to grow.  Bringing the people of Wilbarger County the best. 
"We hope to be the place for art, culture, science and history of Wilbarger County and the surrounding area and I think we're doing a good job," Heatly says.
One of the things we learned is that when Jay Henry Ray and his wife Ethel went to Wilbarger County leaders to get a museum commissioned, they had more than 10,000  artifacts that they had collected from around the area. Their "trump card" was that the Panhandle Museum in Canyon already wanted their collection. Wilbarger County officials pretty much had to act or they were going to lose it all. 
We are pretty sure that city leaders today, are thrilled that city leaders back then made sure that the Henry's collection stayed put. 
Thirty-one artists from nine states have had art work accepted into the 15th annual International Juried Art Exhibition and sale. The exhibition will be on display at the Red River Valley Museum, 4600 College Drive, June 4 - July 29, 2016. The variety of art offers something to intrigue and please every visitor.

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