At an outreach event in 2017, hundreds of schoolchildren piled off buses, and upon seeing a figure in rugged leather boots, waistcoat, breeches and leather tricorn hat, shouts of exclamation began. The full Spanish colonial costume, worn by the Museum of South Texas History’s Associate Education Officer Joseph Fox, fueled the students’ excitement before they even began their learning activity. It became an effective and entertaining educational tool. Now, you can help the museum by sewing colonial pockets, which will be added to the museum’s try-on costume collection, during the free program, “Sit and Sew,” on Friday, Feb. 1, at 10 a.m. at the Department of Theatre at the University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley (ELAS 115), located at 1201 W. University Dr. in Edinburg.
Trained staff and volunteers wear reproduction-level costumes to convey information about life in the past and to add to the immersive experience of the museum. Simpler costume elements that can be tried on by visitors also enhance their experience by allowing them to interact with objects and place themselves in the past. A study conducted in the U.S. and U.K. noted that high level investment in quality reproduction costumes, coupled with extensive training, produced the best results for visitor learning via costumed interpretation. The museum strives to offer the best visitor experience possible and plans to continue adding both complete reproduction costumes and visitor try-on costumes.
Jennifer Saxton, head of theater production at UTRGV, has long supported the museum by volunteering at Summer Nights at the Museum. She has also enlisted her students to help with the museum’s Try On History Project, which is an effort to expand the museum’s costume collection. In 2018, her class of beginning sewers created an entire set of historically-accurate bonnets for the museum. Numerous visitors have tried on the bonnets, even posing against a green screen to be inserted in a historical image from the museum’s archives. Saxton noted that the bonnets were an ideal project for her students to see every aspect of costuming, from research and pattern drafting to fabrication.
This year, Saxton and MOSTHistory’s Programs and Events Officer René Ballesteros are planning the community-based “Sit and Sew” program, which will help bring history to life for countless museum visitors. The program is free for all ages with supplies and equipment included. Participants must enter through the campus entrance located on University Drive and can park near the Liberal Arts Building South, which is on the southwest corner of the campus. For more information, please contact the museum at 956-383-6911 or visit mosthistory.org/events.
About Museum of South Texas History
The Museum of South Texas History is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. It is located in downtown Edinburg at 200 N. Closner Blvd. on the Hidalgo County Courthouse square. Hours of operation are from 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. Sunday and 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Tuesday–Saturday. Founded in 1967 as the Hidalgo County Historical Museum in the 1910 Hidalgo County Jail, the museum has grown over the decades through a series of expansions to occupy a full city block. In 2003, following the completion of a 22,500 square foot expansion, the museum was renamed the Museum of South Texas History to better reflect its regional scope. Today, the museum preserves and presents the borderland heritage of South Texas and Northeastern Mexico through its permanent collection and the Margaret H. McAllen Memorial Archives and exhibits spanning prehistory through the 20th century. For more information about MOSTHistory, including becoming a FRIEND, visit MOSTHistory.org, like us on Facebook, follow on Twitter, find on Google+ or call +1-956-383-6911.