A (Fine) New Life for Old Museums

It is an ironic thing that it takes a media flurry about a threatened closure to alert the community to the existence of three great museums in the heart of Shreveport. For years, the Shreveport Water Works Museum, the Spring Street Historical Museum, and the more recently-opened Shreveport Railroad Museum, have operated in relative obscurity. Though they may be little-known, their history—and the stories they tell—are big and powerful. By providing clean water to drink and ample water to fight fires, the steam-powered Victorian-era Water Works led to the development of downtown and the city. The Railroad Museum, located on the grounds of the water works, tells the importance of railroads in the early days of Shreveport, more important even than the river or cotton, or perhaps even oil. The Spring Street Museum, located in arguably the city’s oldest building, uses photographs and found treasures to tell the tale of how a muddy, rough river settlement along the Texas Trail grew from a trading post to a thriving city. All three museums are fascinating places that tell amazing historical stories, and each has their supporters, small but intensely dedicated groups of people. These groups singlehandedly built, stocked and staffed it (Railroad Museum), fundraised and wrote grants to maintain it (Water Works) and raised money, funded displays and donated exhibits (Spring Street) to it. The money from these museums’ ‘friends’...

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