Executive Director's WelcomeWhen I talk with people about the Museum of Texas Tech University, the conversation normally focuses on the Museum's public programs – its exhibitions, events, and other public education activities. That is scarcely surprising, as it is through these things that the Museum interacts with most of its audiences.
In 2018, we offer a highly eclectic exhibit program that includes a comparison of the Grasslands of North America and Africa based on specimens from our own collection; gorgeous nature photographs in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibit from the Natural History Museum in London; a history of our favorite consumable, the chile pepper; the story of the Bible in the Middle Ages; and the traveling exhibition, The Red that Colored the World about the extraordinary dye cochineal.
In 2017, we presented 19 temporary exhibits in addition to our long-term galleries. This year I expect we will present even more exhibits than in the last.
But I want to highlight another area of the Museum's activities here. The Museum is a very active research institution. Research is possibly the least understood part of our work. It happens mostly out of sight – either in the laboratories and work areas of the Museum, or in fieldwork undertaken around the state and farther afield. The research is carried out by our staff and by many others – faculty and students of Texas Tech, and researchers from institutions around the country and overseas.
Museum research is largely object-based. That means it mostly relates in some way to material heritage, whether that heritage is natural or human-made. In many cases, the research ties closely to our collections. Field activities generate many of the collection objects, especially in natural history and archaeology. Other collection objects, especially in art and history, are donated to the Museum from private collectors and researchers. Financial constraints mean that only rarely can we purchase objects for our collections.
Just what sort of research do we do or support? The answer is that our research is as diverse as our collections. And our collections are very diverse. It is quite possible that the Museum of Texas Tech University has the most diverse collections of any university museum in this country. Spanning art, history, clothing and textiles, anthropology and archaeology, paleontology, and natural history, the collections are a remarkable documentation of the natural and human-crafted worlds. And all our collections support research. Research is conducted to better document the collections and to better understand their relevance. We study artists, their backgrounds, their motivations, and their style, to better appreciate the art they have created. We study the human settlement of Texas from Paleo-Indian to modern times via the archaeological and historical artifacts that document 12,000 years of human occupation. The fossils of Texas and farther afield, painstakingly excavated from field digs, reveal the early evolution of this planet, but only through detailed analysis. The existing fauna of this country and many others is researched through active field collecting programs that result in collections that are a perpetual library of information for future generations. The whole specimens or tissue samples from them will be the subjects of research for hundreds of years to come.
This research feeds into publications for peer review—where experts in the field assess the quality of the research and its results and incorporate it into their own studies—and into more generally accessible products such as popular publications, exhibits, and educational programs.
The Museum is a center of collections, but it is also a center of scholarship. Everything we do is based on high quality scholarship, and the active tool of that scholarship is research.
Gary Morgan, Ph.D.
Museum of Texas Tech University