Explore 2 million artifacts at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum

You may have heard of the Palo Duro Canyon, the second largest canyon in the United States, which is located in the aptly named town of Canyon, a short distance outside of Amarillo.

But Canyon has another claim to fame: it’s home to the state’s largest history museum.

Located on the campus of West Texas A&M University, the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum covers over 285,000 square feet and has two million artifacts and counting.

Dedicated to preserving Panhandle’s past, the PPHM has an impressive permanent collection that includes exhibits on archeology, paleontology, geology, natural history, early Plains people, Panhandle oil history, textiles, transport, weapons, windmills, etc.

Art also looms large at PPHM, with seven galleries showcasing works inspired by the American Southwest and beyond, including a rotating 700-piece collection by “Dean of Texas Painters” Frank Reaugh.

Additionally, the HD Bugbee Gallery features a rotating display of over 1,000 Western-inspired works by the prolific Bugbee and his wildlife painter wife, Olive Vandruff. The gallery even features a detailed recreation of Bugbee’s workshop.

You’ll also want to visit Pioneer Town, an immersive experience that painstakingly recreates the diversity and culture of the Texas Panhandle from 1890-1910 with 26 carefully researched and recreated buildings.

No detail has been spared, down to the tile pattern of the bank, the type of curtain rods in the hotel and the labels on the cans of the mercantile. Type a message on the telegraph at the depot, play poker at the saloon, see an adobe casita and Chinese laundry, peek into the two-seater outhouse, or try the leg chains in the jail.

Another thing to see is the oldest Anglo-built structure in the Panhandle, which now sits permanently on museum grounds. The two-room log cabin headquarters at the historic T Anchor Ranch was moved room by room to its PPHM location in 1975, narrowly avoiding a potentially damaging flood.

The special exhibitions are equally attractive, where any subject is fair game.

Currently, you can enter your favorite fairy tales in Enchantment Itemson view until April 2023. In Georgia O’Keeffe’s Cabinet of Curiositiesthrough 2024, discover more than 200 letters the artist wrote, documenting her experiences while living in Canyon and teaching at West Texas Normal College.

Are also exhibited rocks of the ages, with over 200 rocks, minerals and gems; an exhibition on prohibition; and a shotgun belonging to Teddy Roosevelt.

While you’re planning your next Panhandle road trip, you can preview PPHM online. The museum recently launched its first digital exhibits, including MHW Ritchie’s Baffin Island photographs, an Isabel Robinson art collection, a seashell collection, and more.

PPHM also hosts STEAM Summer Camps, Lawn Movies, and more. See all upcoming events and exhibits, and learn more about the multitude of ways PPHM celebrates the history of the Panhandle-Plains region, here.

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Patrick F. Williams