A teepee filled with Cheyenne blankets, tools, weapons and a headdress engaged visitors Saturday before they stepped inside the Bell County Museum to see the new exhibit, “Bison: American Icon,” on display now through Jan. 7, 2014.
At an opening reception, Michael Donohue entertained an audience of 75 people with an educational and humorous lecture, “The American Bison: Fact, Myth and Bull.”
Donohue is chairman of the Temple College Art Department, an interpreter and park ranger at Little Big Horn Battlefield, an author, and has won many professional and academic awards.
The traveling exhibit is on loan from the National Endowment of the Humanities.
Museum Director Stephanie Turnham said the exhibit’s shipping containers converted into display stands once the contents were emptied.
“It’s logistically efficient and designed to move easily,” she said. “The displays encourage visitors to touch and interact with the placards and other exhibit items, while engaging them with thought provoking questions.”
A Sharps 1874 “Old Reliable” rifle is also on display.
The gun was the preferred weapon used by white hunters because it was powerful enough to stop a moving buffalo.
The exhibit also includes stories of independent conservationists and ranchers who helped preserve the dwindling bison herds, along with board games for children and maps showing how buffalo herds roamed and were diminished.
Janet Sutton, who volunteers at the museum and teaches middle school in the Killeen school district, had some of her students visit the exhibit.
“I wanted something to engage my students and to get them out to the museums,” Sutton said. “I wanted to give them a reason to come out here.”
This is the second exhibit that Sutton has built an extra credit assignment around, using questions about the exhibit and drawing students to visit the museum.
Sam McCoy, a seventh-grader in Sutton’s class, visited with his family.
“It was really cool,” Sam said. “I was surprised to learn that every part of the bison could be used.”
Mark Henry said he was answering extra credit questions for his class at Charles Patterson Middle School in Killeen.
“I learned what the parts of bison are used for, (and) what the women did with them,” Henry said.
Harker Heights City Councilman Spencer Smith also visited the exhibit Saturday.
“We really do have a gem here, in the museum and in these programs that they bring us,” he said.