By Kati Moody
The Wallace Theater is teaming up with Cathy McMahan’s National History Day class and the Hockley County Historical Commission to host a pop-up museum next week at the Wallace in downtown Levelland.
The museum projects center around the dust bowl and were made by students in Cathy McMahan’s class at Levelland Middle School.
All year long, the students focus on creating and completing their projects for the National History Day competition, which concludes in March.
McMahan said the students needed a project to keep them busy until the end of school, and found something that could teach students another aspect of history–creating and curating museum exhibitions.
“I wanted them to understand another world to museums,” McMahan said.
She said she wanted her students to understand the process that museum curators go through to create an informative exhibit that will engage audiences.
“I wanted them to think about how to curate something an audience will enjoy,” McMahan said.
She said the students got to visit the Panhandle Plains Museum to see what exhibits were and to begin thinking about how they would create their own exhibits.
McMahan said she chose the topic, the Dust Bowl, because it was relevant to this area and the history of Hockley County.
“Our kids know what dust looks like and what a haboob is, but understanding it was not only about environmental science, but economic issues and the psychological impacts,” McMahan said. “They learned it creates a sort of root system into different aspects of life and realized it was so much bigger than bad weather and so many elements made it the perfect storm.”
Students chose different subjects that fell within the umbrella of the dust bowl, from environmental science behind the dust bowl, along with the economics associated with the Great Depression, politics of the ongoing national government and the psychological impacts of the Dust Bowl and Great Depression on women, children, men and families alike.
McMahan was also interested in the idea of a pop-up museum after doing some research and finding Humanities Texas offered traveling exhibitions.
She reached out to Alycyn Keeling, executive director at the Wallace Theater, to brainstorm how this idea could come to life as a real museum exhibition.
Keeling said this was something that fit perfectly into the vision for the Wallace Theater, which is to create experiences that entertain, inspire and empower.
“Part of that is that we are bringing in unique opportunities that serve a need,” Keeling said. “There’s art that happens through creating this museum exhibition and it supports educational opportunities for our students.
“It’s empowering the ones that created these exhibits and inspiring those who are coming through to see the exhibit and learn about the history of our community,” Keeling said.
In planning the exhibition, Keeling and McMahan reached out to the Hockley County Historical Commission to see if there would be any interest in partnering with them to sponsor the event.
“They were extremely enthusiastic,” Keeling said. “They also recognized that there’s an opportunity for students in our community, many of which have never had an opportunity to visit a museum before. This gives them that experience in their hometown and seeing a topic that is relevant to our area.”
The historical commission went above and beyond the request and offered to provide a $1,000 donation to sponsor the pop-up museum at the Wallace Theater.
“We are so thankful for their support,” Keeling said. “The reason this whole exhibit is happening is because the historical commission has partnered with us and sponsored the event.”
Keeling said the donation by the historical commission will cover the cost of the exhibition by Humanities Texas and allows for the public to view the pop-up museum free of charge.
“The funding covers the expenses to bring in the Humanities Texas display and allows our community and schools to visit without an admission fee,” Keeling said. “The funds also support the closing dinner.”
Keeling said the Wallace Theater has their own interest in the history of the Dust Bowl and Hockley County, as Wallace and Rose Blankenship, the first owners of the Wallace Theater, were a part of that history.
“They were some of the first settlers in Hockley County,” Keeling said. “They lived in a dugout and this is part of their history, too.”
Members of the historical commission were able to get a sneak peak of the students’ exhibits at the middle school this week and were impressed with what the students had created.
“I loved watching them engage with the students and ask them questions about their projects,” Keeling said. “They were very impressed with the different topics the students found to focus on.”
Viewings of the pop-up museum will start Friday, May 21 with students from Levelland Intermediate School. The museum will be open to the public starting Saturday, May 22, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and will also be available Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday, May 29 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Viewings will be free and open to the public.
The museum will conclude with a special dinner on Thursday, June 3, at the Wallace Theater with special guest speaker Angela Roberts, history professor at South Plains College.
Tickets for the dinner will cost $11 and are available online at wallacetheater.com/events.