Try On History Fund Drive

We did it!

Yes, together we filled the hat to the brim and met the $1,500 financial goal for the Try On History Drive 2018. The drive, started in September 2018, was stuck at 88% until the December 2018 newsletter went out with a final push. Long-time Heritage Associate FRIEND and former board member Virginia Meyer saw the article and called in to see just how much more was left to raise. When told, she immediately said, “The check is in the mail!” Hats off to Virginia.

More than a financial goal to meet, the 2018 Try On History Drive was an effort to add three early 20th century representational costumes to the museum’s growing costume closet. The outfits typifying the 1910-1915 era can be used by museum educators for interpretation programs about the “life and times” of the 1910 Jail when it reopens with exhibitions installed. They can also be used for future programming about the Magic Valley era.

Costumes are more than just fun. In the hands of a museum educator, they become teaching tools that attract audiences and spark the imagination to see the past. By comparing and contrasting the past to the present, the audience engages in critical thinking, an important skill not just when learning from history, but also for countless applications in life.


Jennifer Saxton, head of theater production at UTRGV, has long supported the museum by volunteering at Summer Nights at the Museum. With the Try On History program, she is also enlisting her students. Her class of beginning sewers created an entire set of historically-accurate bonnets for the museum, based on joint research by Saxton and Curator of Collections Lisa Adam. 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.

In partnership, a Sit & Sew was organized for anyone who likes to sew by René Ballesteros, the Programs & Events Officer at MOSTHistory. The project was a lady’s pocket. In colonial times, pockets were tied around the waist, not attached to or incorporated into the fabrication of a skirt. These pockets will be used by museum educators and visitors as part of MOSTHistory’s Try On History program.

UTRGV/Museum of South Texas History Sunbonnet Collaboration

For research, the museum provided photographs including this one of carrot workers in Edinburg, Texas (1939, Russell Lee, Library of Congress).

Students at UTRGV drafted the bonnets using Elizabeth Stewart Clark’s instructions.

The fabrics were purchased from Reproduction Fabrics ( The fabrics represent the 1830s, the 1860s, the 1930s, as well as some undated late 19th century prints.

The UTRGV students created the kits: seven adult-sized and 12 child-sized bonnets. According to Professor Saxton, “The file folders are going to be re-purposed as bonnet slats, or the rigid structure inside the bonnet, once it is no longer needed to organize the kits. The ball of fabric scraps from truing up the edges of the fabric before cutting will be used for either ties for fabric bundles or for making a rag rug. We don’t often get to do zero waste but this project may be close.”

And, the final products!

A big THANK YOU to the students at UTRGV and Professor Saxton for providing their talents, dedication and time to create sunbonnets for the museum’s reproduction clothing collection. This project was funded the Try On History Project — your dollars at work! Thank you for bringing more interactive experiences to museum visitors.

Back view of the adult sun bonnet.

Side view of the adult sun bonnet.

UTRGV/Museum of South Texas History Colonial Pocket Collaboration

Jennifer Saxton (seen right), a theater professor at UTRGV, explains the details on cutting, measuring and sewing a lady’s colonial pocket.

That’s hot! Saxton shows community members how to iron out muslin material for the lady colonial pockets.

Sylvia Flores (seen left) shows her granddaughter, Alyssa Garza, how to align sewing materials at UTRGV’s Theatre Department’s costume shop.

Next step: Sew!

Aren’t you glad sewing machines were invented?

Marcia Olivarez, a member of the RGV Sewing Club, snips an opening for the lady colonial pocket.

René Ballesteros, the programs and events officer at MOSTHistory, sews a lady colonial pocket BY HAND!

And, here are the final products! THANK YOU, Jennifer Saxton and the community, for creating beautiful colonial pockets that will be added the museum’s Try On History collection.


Try On History Fund Drive

Be fashionably generous. Make a donation.


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