WACO, Texas: The Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum is proposing renovation and expansion to include more exhibits to the Waco City Council.
“The facility is going to have to grow in order to continue to contribute what it’s done and in order to continue saving the history,” museum director Byron Johnson said.
The museum prides itself on being Waco’s first tourist attraction, opening its doors in 1968. Their attendance has jumped dramatically over the last few years.
“It was designed originally to handle about 20,000 people a year,” Johnson said. “The last full year before COVID, we had five times as many visitors as that and they came from literally all over the world.”
The 600-page proposal given to the city council highlights the new exhibits they plan to open in order to tell the full story of the Texas Rangers, not shying away from what some see as a discriminatory past.
“People are products not only of the good things in their background, they’re also the products of the bad things in their background,” Johnson said. “If they evolve the way they should, it can be rather remarkable, as we think the Texas Rangers are today, and so it’s important we tell both sides of that story.”
They also aim to make the museum more interactive, not just taking in the artifacts from behind the glass.
“We want to have you have a chance to interact with that history,” Johnson said. “We want [visitors] to experience some of it and to make some of the decisions Texas Rangers have on how to react to things they’ve had to do over the centuries.”
Johnson has been the director for 25 years and likens the museum to other local historical sites like the Dr. Pepper Museum and the Waco Mammoth Site.
He believes the city needs to keep these educational monuments alive.
“All of those things have the potential to being beneficial to the community not only now, but 50, 100, 200 more year into the future if they are supported and we re-invest in them,” Johnson said.
Johnson estimates the museum has brought in somewhere between $120 million and $170 million for the local economy since opening its doors.