By Desiree Johnson

Killeen Daily Herald

Romance can be difficult in today’s world, but imagine sweeping your honey off her feet 50 or 100 years ago, before the days of widely available boxed chocolates, perfume and mixed CDs. In honor of Valentine’s Day, the Bell County Museum put together a new exhibit putting the spotlight on romance through the ages.

“Will You Be Mine? A Guide to Weddings and Other Romantic Traditions” opened Thursday and will include information about the origins of courtship and wedding rituals as well as a collection of wedding clothing previously in the museum’s permanent collection.

“We have this wonderful collection of clothing, and we wanted to celebrate romance with it,” said Stephanie Turnham, museum director. “They’ve been donated over the years and we know their histories, so it makes a great display.”

A beige satin wedding dress dating from 1874 is the oldest piece of the collection, sitting side-by-side with a lilac silk bridesmaid’s dress from the same wedding.

Dresses aren’t the only focus, either.

The museum is displaying a collection of love letters documenting a courtship from 1901-02, as well as a special collection of letters on loan from Marilyn and Robert Gardner.

Robert Gardner’s mother was born on Valentine’s Day, “so he had an extraordinary collection of beautiful three-dimensional valentines,” Turnham said. “They’re really something to see.”

Once visitors have taken in all the romantic splendor of love letters and wedding paraphernalia, they can get involved with the museum’s interactive area connected to the exhibit.

“We want museum visitors to enjoy the exhibit as well as learn from it,” program coordinator Kristin Williams stated in a news release. “We will have a station where visitors can learn the romantic language of the fan and the meaning of flowers, make their own love letters, discover the history of etiquette and more.”

If your Valentine’s Day plans didn’t included a trip to the muesum, don’t fret. The exhibit will be on display through July 26.

“We wanted to extend it since so many people get married around May and June,” Turnham said. “It’s a great thing for everyone, from people looking for a date to people who have a date, those who have been married for years and families.”

The museum celebrates the exhibit’s opening with a public reception from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday. Admission is free, and refreshments will be served.

The Bell County Museum is at 201 N. Main St., Belton. Museum hours are noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more information, call (254) 933-5243.

Contact Desiree Johnson at or call (254) 501-7599

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