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Odd Topic Museums in Texas

Barney Smith’s Toilet Seat Art Museum

239 Abiso Ave, San Antonio, TX 78209 (210) 824-7791

(The museum is reported temporarily closed while Barney recovers from a bad fall)

Started by a retired master plumber, Barney Smith’s Toilet Seat Art Museum is a constantly growing collection of self-created art. Barney conducts all the tours of his collection, which became a museum in 1992. He logs in visitors in a guest book and keeps the stack of old ones nearby.

What, exactly, is his toilet seat art? It’s part found object assemblage, part collage, part hand lettering and drawing. If Barney had a box of 40 old faucet handles, they ended up glued to a used toilet seat lid. He said his dad hunted and mounted trophy heads on plaques, and that gave Barney ideas about toilet lid mountings. His dad thought the ideas were crazy.

Each seat is numbered, a system he put in place after he had 127 and realized he might start losing track. The museum is free but call ahead before arriving as it’s located in his own garage.

Devils Rope Barbed Wire Museum

100 Kingsley St, McLean, TX 79057 (806) 779-2225

This museum is dedicated to the history of barbed wire, tools, and accessories. Known as the largest barbed wire museum in the world, features this “Tribute to Barbed Wire” monument at the front entrance. Frank and Violet Smith of Keller, Texas, charter members of the Devil’s Rope Museum of McLean, Texas, and the museum, created a remarkable focal piece from two huge solid barbed wire balls weighing approximately 400 pounds each, sitting atop limestone rock fenceposts and joined by antique wrought iron fencing.

The Devil’s Rope Museum in McLean has approximately 60 patented post hole diggers on display, all showing different designs and mechanisms to make the job easier.

Grand Saline Salt Palace

100 W Garland St, Grand Saline, TX 75140 (903) 962-5631

The center of the salt deposit is the salt prairie southeast of the town itself. As a source of salt, the area was used by Caddo Indians as early as 800 CE, and by the Cherokee Indians until 1839. Salt production was started in 1845 by John Jordan and A.T. McGee. Running across most of east Texas and western Louisiana at about 4 miles beneath the surface, this salt deposit is a protrusion from a main salt bed. Salt water rises to the surface and crystallizes in the sand as the sun and wind evaporate the water. The theory is that this area was once part of the Gulf of Mexico—the seas dried up, leaving layers of salt that were covered as the earth’s layers shifted and changed. Volcanic activity or an intense heat melted the salt, burning up any other minerals or fossils and pressure caused the molten salt to push to the surface.

ArtCar Museum

140 Heights Blvd, Houston, TX 77007 (713) 861-5526

The Art Car Museum, or “Garage Mahal” as many know it, opened in February 1998. It was founded as a not-for-profit arts organization by Ann Harithas, artist and long-time supporter of the Art Car movement, and James Harithas, currently Director of the Station Museum of Contemporary Art, Houston, Texas.

the 1984 Collision show curated by Ann Harithas at the Lawndale Art Center is where the origins of the Art Car museum first sparked into being. Featured in museums and cultural institutions across the country, Collision unveiled Larry Fuente’s “Mad Cad” art car. The Collision exhibition was the initial fuel for the art car movement in Houston which led to the Art Car Parade and the international Art Car movement.

Texas Prison Museum

491 State Highway 75 N, Huntsville, TX 77320 (936) 295-2155

The Texas Prison Museum has been around since 1989 and offers an intriguing glimpse into the lives of the state’s incarcerated. The museum features numerous exhibits detailing the history of the Texas prison system, featuring a look inside the operations behind the fences and walls.

The museum is frequented by a wide cross-section of the public, ranging from grade-school students on field trips to tourists from around the world. Since moving to a new permanent museum building in 2002, the number

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