National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame Ground Floor Exhibit Renovation — Fort Worth, Texas

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For more than 40 years, the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame has honored the women who shaped the American West. Founded in the basement of the Deaf Smith County Library in Hereford, Texas, the museum moved to Fort Worth in 1994 and now stands in the heart of Fort Worth’s Cultural District.

Together, Bennett Benner Partners with the design firm Projectiles from Paris France worked with the Cowgirl Museum to design the renovation of the ground floor exhibit spaces. The goal of the renovations was to create interactive features in order to engage the community in a new way.

The renovations feature a revamped rotunda space, welcoming visitors with a kinetic mobile structure animated by slowly rotating image panels and projection screens. The former theater was renovated into a temporary exhibits gallery, and the temporary exhibits gallery was converted into a permanent exhibit on the Wild West shows.

With a focus on the role of women in the Buffalo Bill & Pawnee Bill shows, this exhibit features a full-size hologram of Annie Oakley speaking directly to the visitor in the context of a famous photograph. A number of her belongings and letters are on display, complemented by interactive screens and animated historic images.

An additional section discusses the authenticity of the shows and explores gender lines, conveying the ways in which these shows helped introduce cowgirls into other areas of Western culture. A photo booth allows visitors to take pictures and print postcards with famous people from the exhibit.

The project was a challenging renovation within an existing museum space that needed to remain open during construction. This required a great deal of infrastructure coordination and space-planning oversight. But the extra attention was well worth it, for an end result that better engages visitors by bringing the past – virtually – to life.