The very center of Houston’s cultural heart is its Museum District with an official association of 19 institutions celebrating art, history, culture, and science. Known for its rich diversity, Houston’s unique collection of museums reflects its notorious melting pot status. Fine art museums are often the more prominent attractions, but with everything from a bicycle museum to an original 1940s art deco aviation museum, Houston’s colorful variety of institutions off the beaten path keep things a bit more interesting.
The Museum of Fine Arts Houston is the largest cultural institution in America’s southwest region and still growing. The museum’s permanent collection alone covers over 6,000 years of history from seven continents. The Houston Museum of Natural Science is amongst the top five most attended of non-Smithsonian museums. Boasting a planetarium, giant screen theatre, and live butterfly center, HMNS’s curators always have a breathtaking exhibition up their sleeve to draw crowds in the thousands. Not to be overlooked, the museum’s permanent exhibitions include the Cullen Hall of Gems & Minerals, Morian Hall of Paleontology, and Hall of Ancient Egypt complete with the only mummy in the Lone Star State, Ankh-Hap.
On the edge of avant-garde, The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston is a non-collecting art institution founded in 1948. Everything from film screenings to live performance art to guest lectures dot the CAMH’s calendar in addition to a rotation of stunning contemporary paintings and sculpture.
Temporarily relocated on Kirby Drive, Houston’s Holocaust Museum is projected to reopen in the original location in spring 2019 after doubling the size of the facility. An experience both solemn and absolutely necessary, the Holocaust Museum’s permanent exhibition is Bearing Witness: A Community Remembers, which sharpens the lens on the stories of survivors in the greater Houston area.
The Buffalo Soldiers National Museum on Caroline St. is the only museum in the U.S. dedicated primarily to preserving the legacy and honor of the black soldier and houses the largest repository of black military history in the world. The San Jacinto Monument and adjacent battleship highlights the history of Texas and the Spanish Southwest and honors those who fought in the Battle of San Jacinto in 1836. The Art Car Museum celebrates the weird and wonderful works featured in the annual Art Car Parade, a Houston tradition since 1988.
An affiliate of the Smithsonian Institute, The Health Museum is a hands-on experience exploring the history of biological and medical sciences. With quirky interactive exhibitions such as a massive human heart wheel with biometric systems, a 22-foot-long backbone hanging from the ceiling, and a 10-foot-tall walk-through brain with memory games.
Perhaps one of the more offbeat museums in town, The National Museum of Funeral History highlights the fascinating history of how we care for our lost loved ones. Just as mankind has phases of cultural trends like weddings or holidays, so, too, do we have interesting trends in funerary practices. Exploring everything from casket finishes to hearses to medical devices, this museum is not as morbid as it sounds!