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The University of Texas at Austin

Museums

The Winedale Story - Continuing Evolution of Winedale

Winedale is still "a work in progress." The social makeup of the surrounding area continues to change as workers and small farmers give way to middle-class urbanites. The vision of Winedale as a historical museum continues to evolve as well, as we look at new and previously neglected aspects of the social and cultural history of the site and its region. Winedale continues to prompt us to ask new questions about the buildings, their furnishings, and the daily lives of the people who lived and worked in them.
 
 

Cotton harvesting on the southern prairies.
Prints and Photographs Collection

Cotton harvesting on the southern prairies

Winedale brochure for absentee landowners, 1975

Winedale brochure for absentee landowners, 1975.
Winedale Historical Center Collection

Gentrified farm scene near Winedale, 2000,
photograph by Drew Patterson.

Winedale Historical Center

Gentrified farm scene near Winedale, 2000

 
The area surrounding Winedale is still changing. The total population declined steadily throughout the 20th century, especially during the Depression and World War II. Since the 1960s, small family farmers practicing row crop agriculture have sold out to urbanites seeking rural retreats. Gentrification by city dwellers thus has reduced the ethnically diverse farm population of long residence. Lured by the historic lands of the old Austin Colony, newcomers have converted the fields to pasturage for cattle raising. In their stewardship of the land, they have restored the ecology and given the countryside a park-like appearance, complete with white fences, broad pastures, and livestock. By the 1970s, weekend and absentee landowners became so prevalent in the surrounding counties that Winedale began to offer seminars to address their needs.
 

Colorado County farm children, 1920Colorado County farm children, 1920.
Winedale Photograph Collection

As social and economic changes continue in the surrounding area, the vision of Winedale as a public history museum and place of learning continues to evolve as well. Today, public culture—including the representation of the Winedale story—must reflect the diversity of our social history. As the materials in this exhibit suggest, we are examining new and previously neglected aspects of social life in the area, including the lives of minority groups, women, children, and laborers.

 

What was daily life like for farm boys and girls on the southern prairies of Texas in 1920? What changes had occurred by 1950? By 2000?

The study of public culture must also reach beyond ethnicity, gender, and class to embrace larger themes common to the experience of many groups. Such themes include the immigrant experience, the transformation of family life, and the search for identity in a new setting.
 
Maria Wagner with her children, ca. 1870

Maria Wagner with her children, ca. 1870.
Winedale Photograph Collection

What was it like to be a middle-class, German-American farm woman in Winedale, Texas, in the 1800s? How did German immigrants maintain their cultural identity in their new role as Texans and Americans?

“America the Beautiful” German lyrics

"America the Beautiful" German lyrics.
Courtesy of Delores Gummelt

 
At Winedale, as at other outdoor museums, we are addressing broader issues and asking new questions about the buildings, their furnishings, and the daily lives of the people who lived in them. Architectural historians are exploring the social and political meanings of landscapes and vernacular buildings. Social historians are learning to appreciate the role of space and design in shaping community history.
 
Wagner House, ca. 1890s

Wagner House, ca. 1890s.
Winedale Photograph Collection

Interior of Wagner House,
photograph by Drew Patterson.

Winedale Photograph Collection

Interior of  Wagner House

Aerial view of Winedale, ca. 1991

Aerial view of Winedale, ca. 1991.
Courtesy Mark Wagner.

Winedale Photograph Collection

 
 

NEW APPROACHES

 

Student papers from the University of Texas course on Winedale, 1998Student papers from the University of Texas course on Winedale, 1998.
Winedale Historical Center Collection

Courses at the University of Texas have explored new avenues of interpretation for Winedale that employ some of these concepts. Student proposals have ranged from web-based, multi-dimensional tours of the historic structures to imaginative thematic exhibits, one of which, for example, links quilt patterns to gardening in an exploration of women's work. Another focuses on the many different communities—workers, families, students, worshippers, etc.—that interact simultaneously in the Winedale area. Such student projects offer opportunities for new exhibits and programs in Winedale's continuing evolution.

 

Our identity is a product of our personal and collective memory, and landscapes and built environments embody our social memories because they provide the framework for our lives. This is what social historians mean by "the power of place."


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