Founded in 1965, opened in 1966, and housed in the historic Turner Mansion since 1968, the Museum of the Southwest, located at 1705 W. Missouri Avenue in Midland, Texas, has spent more than fifty years serving the Midland and West Texas communities by producing exhibitions, programs, and events inspired by science, art, astronomy, archaeology, history, and culture.
The museum opened in 1966, following a movement in the Junior League of Midland that sought the establishment of a local museum to promote art and science. Though the original site was set on Wall Avenue, the museum was given a rare opportunity from the family of Fred Turner, Jr., a successful businessman in Midland. After the deaths of Fred and his wife, Juliette, their two daughters gave the large mansion their father had built to the Museum of the Southwest for exhibitions, programs, and activities. Since 1968 the Turner Mansion, the stables, and the larger grounds have been the home of the Museum of the Southwest.
Expansion of the campus and facilities started in 1970 with the addition of the Thomas Gallery onto the mansion to provide much needed space for the growing museum collection and continued in 1972 with the construction of a planetarium. The planetarium was made possible by a grant given by the Blakemore Foundation and later named after Marian Blakemore. Designed by architect Frank Welch, the Blakemore Planetarium won the Texas Society of Architects’ Award for Excellence. More construction followed in 1986 when the Junior League of Midland made plans to build a children’s museum for the community. Fredda Turner Durham—one of the daughters of the late Fred Turner, Jr.—came forward with a donation that allowed for the construction of this new facility, which later was named in her honor. The most recent major addition came in 1987, when the Lissa Noël Wagner Wing was added onto the Turner Memorial Art Museum to provide more exhibition and storage space. In 1988 the Turner Mansion was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Since then, all three major buildings have undergone renovations, but the historic integrity of the original Turner Mansion has always been maintained.
All of these additions and donations have resulted in a five-acre campus with four buildings that house the Museum of the Southwest. The additions of galleries and storage to the main building allow the Turner Memorial Art Museum to maintain a collection of more than 40,000 works of art and archaeological items, while also giving it the space to rotate special exhibits throughout the year. The permanent collection includes the Hogan Collection of paintings by the Taos Society of Artists as well as paintings and prints by important American artists, including Norman Rockwell, Grant Wood, and Thomas Hart Benton. Highlights of the works on paper collection include hundreds of lithographs from the Texas Regionalists, including Jerry Bywaters, Otis Dozier, Alexandre Hogue, and Merritt Mauzey; a large collection of John James Audubon’s quadruped animals; Joseph Imhof’s drawings and studies of American Indians; and many of Karl Bodmer’s prints. Other areas of focus include Texas and Southwestern modernists; works by modern American Indian artists including T. C. Cannon, Fritz Scholder, and Maria Martinez; and Western paintings and sculptures.
Galleries in the historic mansion feature landscapes and portraits from the permanent collection. The Turner Legacy Galleries tell the story of Midland, the history of the home and the Turner family, and the equestrian pursuits of the family, including two Kentucky Derby trophies. In addition, the large grounds include a sculpture garden and host a variety of events for the community, including concerts, festivals, the Midland Downtown Farmer’s Market, and other seasonal activities. For its importance to the community of Midland and the excellence maintained by the board of trustees and museum staff, the Museum of the Southwest has been accredited by the American Association of Museums since 1992 and continued to enjoy the support of the people of Midland in the 2010s. At that time, more than 100,000 guests visited the campus annually.