STAMFORD Texas (KTAB/KRBC)- The Museum of the West Texas Frontier (formerly the Cowboy Country Museum) in Stamford is open once again, and director Jewellee Kuenstler says they hope to keep it that way for many years to come.
First opening in 1977, the museum has hit a few rough spots, the most recent of which came during the pandemic.
“It has gone through a stage where it’ll be open for a couple of years, and then closed for a couple of years,” Kuenstler says.
In the past, the museum told the story of Stamford, its founding, and evolution. Now Kuenstler and her staff are looking to expand their curriculum to focus on Stamford and its surrounding areas.
“From our perspective, this tells the story of every small town in West Texas, how it grew from just a frontier to actually a town, a community,” says Kuenstler.
It’s a movement that even longtime residents say is exciting.
“Jewellee is just what we needed to come in and spark some new life into it,” says museum docent and Stamford resident Barbara Billlington.
Billlington has been in Stamford for most of her life. Her family settled in the area in 1883, 17 years before the city was founded, and the museum tells much of her family’s story.
“I just feel connected, that’s all I can say,” says Billlington.
It’s a connection that she and Kuenstler want to share with all Texans.
“And that’s what we tell the kids all the time: ‘This is your museum. This tells about you, and whether you’ve been here 100 years or whether you’ve been here one year, this is your heritage,'” Kuenstler said.
She and her staff have some lofty ambitions, including a distance learning center to reach those beyond the Lone Star State.
“To the nation, and teach them about cotton farming in Texas. Teach them about why football is so important to our little town,” says Kuenstler.
But before they can work on expanding, they need to make sure they can keep the lights on. Kuenstler says they’re working to become self-sustaining by attracting sponsors and applying for grant funding.
“So we don’t rely so much on what the city can give us, because they have their plate full as it is,” Kuenstler says.
They’re hoping the history and stories that tie the people to their land aren’t lost or forgotten by younger generations.
“Knowledge is built on knowledge, things evolve,” Billington says. “There’s always somebody in our past that helped us get where we are.”