The exhibition tells the Astin family story, charting the rise of the family and its business enterprises in the Brazos Valley region. James Hugh Astin, pioneer planter, first came to Texas in 1854, and after a brief stint as a gold miner in California, but he returned in 1861, serving in the Confederate Army’s famed Hood’s Brigade. Ultimately, Astin married, settling in Bryan in 1865. Gradually, through hard work and native business sense, he accumulated extensive holdings in the Brazos Bottom, becoming one of the most successful cotton farmers in the region. His descendants constructed Rivermist, an extensive cotton plantation near Bryan, and went on to become one of the most prominent families in Brazos County.
The Astin’s are one of a few key families who helped build this region into what it has become today. Their story provides a point of access to their milieu, one of privilege on the frontier in the 19th century, and the gradual transformation that social, economic and political realities imposed through the first half of the 20th century. The exhibit incorporates fashion, graphic design, and art from the period to highlight the popular culture and couture of the first three decades of the 20th century.
Nina Heard Astin and her daughter, Nina Bess, well known for generosity and community involvement, bequeathed much of their inherited wealth to the Bryan/College Station community through the Nina Heard Astin and Nina Bess Astin Charitable Trusts. The two trusts continue to support community projects, scholarships, and charitable organizations including the Museum. Legacy will be held in the Museum’s main gallery – named for the Astin family.
Materials on loan from the Heard-Craig House Museum in McKinney, Texas, including photographs and family china, will augment an extensive collection of historical clothing once belonging to members of the Astin family, on loan from the Brazos Heritage Society. Supplementing couture on display are stunning examples of period jewelry, purses, and hats. A selection of decorative items, including Steuben glass and Tiffany reproductions, art from the period on loan from the J. Wayne Stark University Center Galleries, and other Art Nouveau and Art Deco pieces will give the visitor a sense of the prevailing art and design movements of the period. Collaborators include historian John P. Blair and genealogical researcher Bill Page, along with members of the Brazos Heritage Society and coordinating curator, Elisabeth Manning of the BVMNH.
The Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History is open to visitors Tuesday-Saturday 10am-5pm. The admission fees: adults $5; seniors/students/children $4; children 3 and under are free.
Members of the Brazos Heritage Society are encouraged to attend this opening reception.