Freeway Free in Texas: An Austin Highlight
I touched down in Austin for just long enough to glimpse the Capital building and visit one excellent museum. The state Capitol of Texas looks like a clay model of the California State Capitol – Instead of a white wedding cake with a gold dome, it’s plain terracotta.
Instead of strolling the Capitol grounds, we trusted AAA and headed for a Gem – the Bollock Museum – The Story of Texas (and beyond). The building is what you might expect of a museum of Texas history in the Texas Capitol, sporting a giant five pointed star in front, flanked by the six flags of Texas. Inside, an atrium goes up three stories, with a mural in the center of the lobby best viewed from the third floor, depicting Indians, cowboys, missionaries, oxen, and horses from above, all seated or grazing around a smoking campfire. Odd but quaint perspective.
The main exhibit (which continues until mid-June) was about WWI, what the US society was like before the war, and how the war affected the society (the chaos after the war.) (From this exhibit I can understands a little better why my father feared a recession after WWII.) After WWI per this exhibit there was a huge slump in manufacturing, and lots of layoffs, leading to violent strikes. Adding to the unrest were returning black soldiers being uppity and suffering the consequences, plus women fighting for the vote. (American suffragettes like Alice Paul were force fed as the British Pankhursts had been.)
Great care was taken to credit women and to credit negro activists, and to talk frankly about race riots and lynchings before and after WWI. The interpretation of history was very much from the 21st century point of view (e.g. videos about “conservative” post- Civil War governors who enforced segregation, vs. “progressive” governors who raised taxes and used sales of public resources (oil rights) to pay for schools and roads.
Another exhibit tracked the growth of Texas by exploring restrictive immigration laws, including an interactive display of “When could they be allowed in?” where you were supposed to figure out when a particular ethnic groups would be most likely to be admitted to the USA (too bad if you were Asian).
Presiding over everything from the atrium balcony is a spectacularly homely statue of Lady Liberty holding up a Lone Star instead of a torch. (to be fair, she was meant to be viewed from a considerable distance, so her features were exaggerated.) She formerly stood on top of the Capitol building, but the welded zinc and iron plates forming her structure did not weather well, so she has been replaced by a copy.
All in all, a fine way to spend a couple of hours as an introduction to the Texas Capitol.