Imagine visiting a municipal museum that narrates the story of its past while highlighting its diversity, as well as its present and future prospects with the residents who call the city home.
In 2018, the City of Irving will begin weaving that possibility into reality. Beginning early next year, the city will accept bids for construction on the upcoming Irving Museum and Archives. The museum will be located on the first floor of the former Irving Central Library, 801 W. Irving Blvd., directly under The Study. While design details are in the works, the $2 million project will span 22,000 square feet while looking out at the Veterans Memorial Park to the east.
The museum will be managed by the Arts and Culture Department, which oversees the Irving Arts Center, Irving Archives, Jackie Townsell Bear Creek Heritage Center, the Mustangs of Las Colinas and the Ruth Paine House Museum. Under the department’s leadership, the history museum will become a Smithsonian Affiliate institution.
The museum’s Smithsonian Affiliate designation will create opportunities for traveling exhibitions and access to the Smithsonian’s collections. Also, the City of Irving will be the first municipality in the country to host the Smithsonian’s Spark!Lab. The lab is an interactive space intended for children ages 6 to 12 to investigate, create, experiment and explore innovative problem-solving skills.
The museum will feature programming opportunities; flexible, large space for games, makerspace or events; digital interactives; permanent and temporary exhibitions; and a gift shop and visitors center.
The space also will house the Irving Archives. The archives will move from its current location on the first floor of the facility to inside the new museum. The location will bring Irving’s collection of historical artifacts to the forefront. The department plans to incorporate archived materials in the exhibits. The materials also will be stored in museum quality, climate-controlled spaces. Museum visitors will learn about the process of archiving, as well as its importance in understanding the past.
The museum will not only provide opportunities to peek behind the curtain of Irving’s history, but also to see how that legacy fits into the larger context of national and world history. The objective is not to think of Irving as an isolated circle, but rather how it ties in with and parallels the American story.
The goal of this new museum is for visitors to see the incredible individuals of Irving’s past, the decisions they have made, and the impact the pioneers had on the city. The innovative children’s space is designed to show Irving’s youth that they too have the same power to make decisions and leave a lasting impact on the community.
Jennifer Landry, director of museums for the Irving Arts and Culture Department, will oversee the new history museum. Landry joined the city in June after serving as the curator for the National Scouting Museum in Irving. Landry also serves as a peer reviewer for the American Alliance of Museums, a nonprofit organization of museum professionals, volunteers, institutions and corporate partners that develops standards and practices for the museum community, according to the alliance’s website.
The Capital Improvement Program (CIP) Department is assisting with the museum project. The CIP Department emphasized that the addition of Landry to the team has helped provide a clearer path toward success, as she joins the city with a wealth of operational and institutional knowledge. Landry has had the benefit of joining the city from the museum’s beginning.
The museum is slated to open to the public in the spring of 2019. The city will host a public preview of in December 2018 — 115 years after founders J.O. Schulze and Otis Brown auctioned off the first lots of the initial 80 acres of land they had purchased that would grow to become the City of Irving. The public preview will showcase the bones of the space before the installation of the exhibits.
While the project is still in its conceptual stage, the department is clear on its goals for the museum. It is intended for guests of all ages and cultures to visit and make memorable, personal connections with the exhibits. The city is home to the most diverse ZIP codes in the U.S. With that in mind, the Arts and Culture Department hopes residents and visitors will see themselves in the story of Irving and will want to venture back when new exhibits come to town.
Visit CityofIrving.org/2255for more information on the city’s ongoing infrastructure initiative.