Feb 9, 2024 - News

Texas history museum now has fully bilingual displays

The Bullock Museum in Austin.

The Bullock Texas State History Museum. Photo: Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc/Corbis via Getty Images

Displays at Texas' premier history museum are now fully bilingual.

Why it matters: Given the long history of state-mandated suppression of Spanish language instruction, the bilingual information at the Bullock Museum is a symbolic and practical recognition of the state's diversity.

Catch up quick: From 1918 until mid-1973, when the Texas Bilingual Education and Training Act was passed, Texas law barred students from speaking Spanish in public schools.

What they're saying: "Every step we take towards more accessible interpretation provides a welcoming and meaningful experience for each and every visitor," Bullock Texas State History Museum curator Angie Glasker said.

Zoom out: For at least a decade, major museums across the country — and in Texas — have offered bilingual programming.

  • "By offering information and programs only in English, museums are neglecting parts of their own communities that they are tasked with serving," Jessica Fuentes, an artist and art educator, wrote last year in Glasstire, an online journal about visual arts in Texas.
  • "And while it is true that art often transcends language, when exhibition text is only offered in English, it creates barriers to access important context for people who only speak, or are more comfortable speaking, a language other than English."

By the numbers: About 28.5% of Texans — almost 7.8 million people — speak Spanish at home, per recently released Census Bureau data.

Details: The Bullock began making its galleries fully bilingual with the opening of a renovated first-floor gallery in 2018.

Between the lines: The current special exhibition, "Sharks," was originally presented in English only but was adapted into a bilingual English and Spanish exhibition by the American Museum of Natural History in New York at the request of the Bullock, museum officials say.

  • Now the "Sharks" exhibition will continue to travel as a bilingual exhibition after leaving the Bullock Museum, according to Bullock officials.

If you go: The Bullock Museum is open 10am-5pm Monday through Sunday.

What we're watching: This amazing San Antonio news segment about how the Spanish language was stigmatized for decades in Texas.

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