Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


Stories of the pioneers who notched a home out of the western wilderness are preserved at the National Ranching Heritage Center in Lubbock, Texas. This museum interprets western heritage through the preservation of more than thirty-five early ranch structures from some of the country's most historic ranches. Lifestyles, music, art, and craftsmanship are demonstrated through special programs, exhibits, and annual events that promote education and interest in ranching history and perpetuate time-honored ranching customs.

The National Ranching Heritage Center displays the evolution of ranch architecture from the late 1700s through the early 1900s. Each building (a bunkhouse, barns, dugouts, windmills, rustic homes, a one-room schoolhouse, a blacksmith shop, a steam engine, a depot, a Spanish fortress blockhouse, the Queen Anne–style home of a wealthy rancher, and more) is authentically restored and furnished and reflects the geography of its original location and the local materials available for its construction.

Some 90,000 people from throughout the nation and abroad visit the National Ranching Heritage Center each year to tour the fourteen-acre Proctor Park historical site and view permanent displays and temporary exhibits. Some 8,000 students from Texas and New Mexico enhance their classroom study each year with memorable history education experiences gained through their visits. More than 200 volunteers help to ensure that guests enjoy their time at the Heritage Center.

The concept of a complex to preserve the history of ranching was approved by the Texas Tech University board of regents in the mid- 1960s. They saw the National Ranching Heritage Center as a way of preserving significant evidence of the history of ranching and development of the West. The new facility opened during formal ceremonies from July 2 to 4, 1976, attended by dignitaries from throughout the world and highlighted by the arrival of the Bicentennial Longhorn Trail Drive.

On June 1, 1998, Texas Tech separated the National Ranching Heritage Center from the university's museum to provide greater visibility and identity for the facility. Special events and programs were developed, including a Ranch Dance series, new children's membership organization and activities, and Grand-Day, on which visiting children are accompanied by a grandparent or older relative. Recognition programs include the Boss of the Plains Award, presented to an individual who has contributed greatly to the success of the museum, and the Golden Spur Award, which is annually presented to one of the nation's outstanding ranchers.

See also AGRICULTURE: Ranches / ARCHITECTURE: Ranch Architecture.

National Ranching Heritage Center website.

Marsha Gustafson National Ranching Heritage Center

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