You may have heard of Palo Duro Canyon, the second-largest canyon in the United States, which can be found in the aptly named city of Canyon, only a short jaunt outside of Amarillo.
But Canyon has another claim to fame: It’s home to the largest history museum in the state.
Located on the campus of West Texas A&M University, the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum covers more than 285,000 square feet and boasts two million artifacts and counting.
Dedicated to preserving the Panhandle’s past, PPHM has an impressive permanent collection that includes exhibits about archaeology, paleontology, geology, natural history, the early people of the Plains, the Panhandle petroleum story, textiles, transportation, weapons, windmills, and more.
Art is also a big deal at PPHM, with seven galleries showing off work inspired by the American Southwest and beyond, including a rotating collection of 700 pieces by the “Dean of Texas Painters” Frank Reaugh.
In addition, the H.D. Bugbee Gallery has on rotation more than 1,000 Western-inspired works by the prolific Bugbee and his wildlife painter wife Olive Vandruff. The gallery even features a detailed reconstruction of Bugbee’s studio.
You’ll also want to tour Pioneer Town, an immersive experience that painstakingly recreates the diversity and culture of the Texas Panhandle from 1890 to 1910 with 26 thoroughly researched and recreated buildings.
Not a detail was spared, right down to the pattern of the tile in the bank, the type of curtain rods in the hotel, and the can labels in the mercantile. Tap out a message on the telegraph at the depot, play poker at the saloon, see an adobe casita and a Chinese laundry, peek in the two-seater outhouse, or try on the leg shackles in the jail.
Another thing worth seeing is the oldest Anglo-built structure in the Panhandle, which now rests permanently on the museum’s grounds. The two-room log cabin headquarters of the historic T Anchor Ranch was moved piece by piece to its PPHM location in 1975, narrowly avoiding a potentially damaging flood.
Special exhibits are equally as engaging, where any subject is fair game.
Currently, you can step into your favorite fairytales in Objects of Enchantment, on display through April 2023. In Georgia O’Keeffe’s Cabinet of Curiosity, through 2024, see more than 200 letters the artist wrote, documenting her experiences while living in Canyon and teaching at West Texas Normal College.
Also on display is Rocks of the Ages, with more than 200 rocks, minerals, and gems; a Prohibition exhibition; and a shotgun owned by Teddy Roosevelt.
While you’re planning your next Panhandle road trip, you can get a sneak peek of PPHM online. The museum recently launched its first digital exhibitions, including the Baffin Island Photographs of M.H.W. Ritchie, an Isabel Robinson artwork collection, a seashell collection, and more.
PPHM also hosts STEAM summer camps, movies on the lawn, and more. See all upcoming events and exhibits, and learn more about the multitude of ways PPHM celebrates the history of the Panhandle-Plains region, here.