The Museum of Southern History, located in Houston, was established under the care of benefactor and longtime president Joella Morris. In the late 1970s Morris first began work to save the old jail in Richmond, Texas, and once that was accomplished she began preserving artifacts and memorabilia regarding the Civil War. She established the Confederate Museum in Fort Bend County in 1978 in order to display these items and directed the museum’s growth and development with the mission to educate current and future generations about the nation’s heritage.
The Confederate Museum had its own building just outside of Richmond, Texas, until 1997, when the museum was renamed the Museum of Southern History and was relocated to a new building on the campus of Southern National Bank in Sugar Land, Texas. In its new location, the museum continued its mission to educate and entertain patrons and to acquire and display objects related primarily to nineteenth-century subjects.
In 2001 a new building was constructed, and during the summer of 2002 the museum moved into its new premises; a grand opening occurred in October 2002. The two-story brick structure was modeled after Thomas Jefferson’s summer retreat home, Poplar Forest, and a small sharecroppers cabin was situated nearby. The permanent exhibits on the second floor chronicled the antebellum history of the South, the coming of the Civil War, the tragic events that composed that drama, and its effects on generations of Southern society. Visitors perused cases and dioramas, with displays that included clothing, fine furnishings, uniforms, tools, and weapons that conveyed a sense of who settled the region and their social values.
The museum moved to Houston Baptist University in the summer of 2007 and joined the Dunham Bible Museum and the Museum of American Architecture and Decorative Arts in the Joella and Stewart Morris Cultural Arts Center, which was dedicated in April 2008. The museum chronicles Southern history from the Colonial Period through World War II, and houses impressive displays of U.S. and Confederate firearms—long arms, muskets, and rifle-muskets ranging from flintlocks through percussion models up through the Civil War. Exhibited also are U.S. pistols, from the models of 1808 through an 1855 pistol-carbine. The JoAnn Moore Collection chronicles the Moore family’s migration to Texas in the 1830s and includes a collection of 1800s daguerreotypes, tintypes, and ambrotypes, along with jewelry seen in the photographs. The museum also has a diorama of the battle of Galveston, including artifacts related to the January 1, 1863, battle where the Confederate steamer Bayou City rammed the Union steamer Harriet Lane. Another display profiles Terry’s Texas Rangers, which was made up of volunteers from the Houston area. The museum encompasses much of both the home life and military aspects of the Civil War.
The Museum of Southern History has a full-time director, Suzie Snoddy, and a full-time curator, Maggie Brown. They also employ a part-time student worker during the school year. Guided tours are available on request, and the museum is open to the public Monday through Friday, except on national holidays.
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Houston Chronicle, October 21, 2002. Museum of Southern History, Houston Baptist University (https://www.hbu.edu/museums/museum-of-southern-history/), accessed August 16, 2017. Museum of Southern History, Kirksey Architecture (http://www.kirksey.com/portfolio/projects/museum-of-southern-history). Accessed August 16, 2017.
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“Museum of Southern History,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed July 07, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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