In 1972, Dr. and Mrs. E.A. Weinheimer donated the animal trophies he had acquired on various Big Game Hunts to the City of El Campo. They included in their donation the building which had housed his first medical clinic, which was remodeled to accommodate his collection as well as the El Campo Chamber of Commerce. The animals were displayed in the back room, mounted on the mall or standing on the floor in no particular order. The Chamber became the caretakers of the collection, although the city retained ownership.
In 1978, the Chamber of Commerce encouraged a group of volunteers to apply for the charter to become the El Campo Museum of Art, History, and Natural Science. The museum board of directors adopted a mission statement and set the goal to develop the collection into a museum-quality presentation of the animals in replicas of their natural habitats and environments. Local volunteers, many of whom were artists, researched, planned, and produced a visual habitat for animals grouped geographically, using landscape murals and replicas of natural settings.
Exhibits being completed during this period were the African and Arctic Exhibits in 1978, and the Great Cats Jungle Exhibit in 1979. The exhibits, as well as the Waterfowl Exhibit of the mid-1980s, attracted visitors to the Museum and membership began to grow.
The Museum became known locally for its elaborate display of Christmas decorations, and Santa Claus became a seasonal favorite for the young and old who came to visit. The Museum became established as a permanent cultural and educational resource in the area.
In 1989 the City of El Campo opened a new Civic Center and the Museum agreed to move to its present location in the Center. Original murals of the African and Waterfowl Exhibits, as well as all of the trophy animals were also moved, and new dioramas were built.
In 1991, a popular Texas Exhibit of animals native to South Texas was added. In 1996 the Museum was renovated, and amended its charter to be named the El Campo Museum of Natural History. An Alaskan Brown Bear exhibit was added, as were interactive computers and informative light boxes to complement the exhibits. These interactive additions helped the El Campo Museum to become a multi-media learning institution for the man visitors who travel to our area.
The Museum Today:
Today, the Museum is a multi-media learning institution for the many visitors who travel to the El Campo Area. A popular spot for class field trips and family outings, the Museum is pursuing continued improvements in hopes of realizing Dr. E.A. Weinheimer's original dream.
The El Campo Museum Society, which oversees the operation of the Museum, is a non-profit organization funded by membership dues, donations, grants, bi-annual fundraisers, and a percentage of the city Hotel/Motel tax.
The Museum hosts some 5,000 visitors annually, with 30% of them school children from a three-county area. The Museum is supported by volunteers who average more than 2,000 hours of their time and talent annually.
And for that reason, the Museum continues to draw visitors from near and far to enjoy this ever-wondrous experience.
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