While on vacation last year, I happened to see a Twitter thread by paleontologist Jim Kirkland about an ankylosaur specimen he had helped to ID at a small, local museum and prep lab called Texas Through Time. I was surprised I hadn’t heard of it before, especially since it was less than an hour from my home in the Dallas area (though as it turns out it had only opened a year prior). It happened to be on our way home as we finished our trip, though we got there close to closing, and I essentially only got a preview at the time. I had been meaning to go back ever since, and was just about to set a date back in May… when of course the Coronavirus Lockdown went into full effect. However, after a couple months, things finally started opening back up, and I was eager to finally pay Texas Through Time a proper visit. I felt particularly intent on going as many museums have faced financial difficulties due to Covid-19, and I wanted to support them in any way I could.
Nestled in the small town of Hillsboro in a historic former auto service garage, Texas Through Time is certainly one of the smaller museums I’ve visited in terms of size, but they manage to pack a surprisingly comprehensive overview of Texas paleontology into their exhibit space.
Walking around the exhibit space from left to right takes visitors past fossils from the Permian, Cretaceous creatures of the land & sea, and finally some Cenozoic mammal fossils, petrified wood, and taxidermy mounts. In terms of time periods represented, I think they actually managed to pack a more comprehensive overview of Texan prehistory into this small space than the Mayborn Museum did with its similarly themed fossil halls. A fun looking fossil dig pit sits in the center of the exhibit space, though sadly it was off limits at the time of our visit due to social distancing considerations.
Texas Through Time also houses its own fossil preparation lab, which visitors can view through large windows in the back. While they excavate plenty of their own fossils, they also provide their services to other museums in need of extra field hands and preparators. During my visit they were in the middle of prepping a Triceratops fossil from Colorado for the Denver Museum.
Museum admission is free for all visitors, but I wanted to give them a little financial support, so I made sure to check out the gift shop before I left. The bulk of their items for sale consist of T-shirts of various amusing designs, as well as gems and minerals for rock collectors. I was particularly surprised however to see a display of Paleo Pals toys, as I’ve only ever seen them online before. I was rather tempted to get Dusty the Diplocaulus for
myself the boys, though I ended up just going with a striking ankylosaur t-shirt instead. Though come to think of it, a Paleo Pals plush toy would make for a fun review, so perhaps I’ll have to go back…
While certainly a smaller museum, Texas Through Time has steadily added to their exhibits over time, and they occasionally have special temporary exhibits come through as well, such as the exhibit on the End Cretaceous extinctions they hosted last year, which included Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton. If you live nearby or happen to be passing through, it’s worth checking out, especially considering the free admission. I look forward to seeing them grow in the coming years, and I plan to visit again soon!