Ruth & I visited the Mayborn just before it opened in 2004. The displays were being installed and it took a vivid imagination to know if this campus museum would be a success. Our main reason for returning to Waco in 2017 was to see how The Mayborn turned out. It’s a great community asset and worth a traveler’s time.
Baylor, the largest Baptist university in the world, has had a natural history museum on its campus since 1893. By that time it had already amassed a large collection of artifacts from traveling professors, alumnae, etc. Some of those marvels are the first things a modern-day visitor sees in an exhibit called “Strecker’s Cabinets of Curiosities”. My favorite was an ancient Australian boomerang with a koala decoration.
Beyond these cabinets was a series of fairly traditional natural history museum displays in 17 themed discovery rooms, traditional dioramas, etc. The museum got especially interesting when showing strictly local stuff like its tribute to Texas longhorns. The pliosaur display was notably popular. The pliosaur seen above, a vicious predator and great swimmer, was the terror of the seas moving swiftly through the water scooping up food. The fossilized remains of one of these early Jurassic reptiles was found near Waco below an old dam. There’s a detailed tribute to the important Waco Mammoth Site that I blogged about on February 16 among the 17.
The 2 most interesting areas to me in this sizable museum were the Jeanes Discovery Center for children and the Governor Bill and Vara Daniel Historic Village. The former had live animals, fun play areas, a birthday party room, etc. What kid wouldn’t want to enter a place called “Water and Bubbles”? More than 30 years ago a parade-like caravan brought the buildings in a historic village in Liberty and unloaded them on the Baylor campus. They’re now just outside the main Mayborn Museum building eloquently revealing frontier Texas life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Ruth sat in the small town church and played 2 hymns on a bygone piano.
Back inside I spent a lot of time studying an interesting Baylor timeline. It began in 1841 when this Baptist University was conceived. It noted that, despite near bankruptcy, Baylor University remained opened during the entire Civil War. Like most timelines, it needed updating.
In general the Mayborn Museum doesn’t need updating, and the staff we talked to was dedicated to making it a worthwhile experience. More than 200 visitors have taken the time to rate it on TripAdvisor, and all but a few found it excellent or very good. I agree.