Museum considers expansion

Since it was established nearly 20 years ago, The Williamson Museum has made it a goal to give every county resident a chance to learn about the culture and history of Williamson County.

More recently, however, Executive Director Mickie Ross said she has been focusing on educating county residents about the museum’s existence.

Because the museum is located in downtown Georgetown, Ross said, many people think the museum is a Georgetown history museum and not a countywide museum.

She said she has wanted to expand to other locations; however, the museum’s location has made that challenging.

“That was my initial goal when I became director, to eventually have a Williamson Museum affiliate or building or store-front in every community,” she said. “But we are very much seen as just a Georgetown museum, and that creates a lot of difficulty.”

The perception keeps some county residents from visiting the exhibits, limits the museum’s number of volunteers and might prevent some residents from donating money, Ross said.

Efforts to expand

Ross said she is working with the cities of Cedar Park and Round Rock to expand into areas outside of Georgetown. She said she anticipates finding a location in Round Rock in the next several years and wants to display historical information in every city in the county in the next five years.

“There’s a lot of cost involved in that, to have staff everywhere,” she said. “We try to participate in everything that we can, but we’re a small staff and we’re stretched.”

Currently one full-time and two part-time employees make up the museum’s staff, so a large cost of expanding would include additional staff and volunteers.

In September, Williamson County Commissioner Valerie Covey encouraged Ross to see if the other cities in the county would help if the museum expands to other locations.

“Hopefully there will be some discussion with those cities to participate financially with employees and space,” Covey said.

Current locations

The Williamson Museum’s main building is located on South Austin Avenue in Georgetown and hosts a permanent exhibit about the county’s creation, and a hallway exibit that features mostly photographs that rotate every six months.

The museum also has two other rotating exhibit spaces, which currently feature an exhibit that opened last April on the Civil War and an exhibit called “Artisans of Williamson County” that will close in December. The museum next plans to offer an exhibit on schools of Williamson County.

In Cedar Park, The Williamson Museum has an exhibit at the Austin Steam Train Association, where photographs of the history and experience of railroading in the county are on display.

The exhibit is part of a new museum that the association launched in April, said Lil Serafine, Austin Steam Train Association executive director.

She said the association believed the partnership would inform their visitors about The Williamson Museum’s Georgetown location, and it has benefited the new steam train exhibits with many artifacts to display.

“It helps us to collectively inform people about the [museums],” Serafine said. “For me, it’s just a wonderful way of helping us cross promote.”

The museum is also partnering with the city of Hutto to create a museum in the farmhouse of Curtis Peterson. The home will feature artifacts of Swedish heritage, and The Williamson Museum will help with the artifact collections as well as planning activities and events, Ross said.

The museum has also created traveling exhibits that have been on display in Taylor and Granger. Ross said the museum is planning a traveling exhibit focused on former Texas Governor Dan Moody, which museum officials hope to move throughout the county.

Ross said she hopes other cities could provide space for other locations and help with staffing costs. By expanding the museum’s perception as a county facility, she is hoping to reach her goal of educating more residents.

“As a county museum the story belongs to everyone in Williamson County,” Ross said. “We have a fascinating history here, and we are just looking for more ways to share that story.”