Here come the horses

Fort Worth museum lifts curtain on $5.5 million high-tech makeover

Fort Worth museum lifts curtain on $5.5 million high-tech makeover

Cowgirl Museum renovations
The Cowgirl Museum's going high-tech with interactive, touch-screen displays. Photo courtesy of National Cowgirl Museum
Jon Snow Game of Thrones saddle, Cowgirl Museum
The saddle Kit Harrington used when he portrayed Jon Snow in Game of Thrones will go on display. Photo courtesy of National Cowgirl Museum
Cowgirl Museum renovations
An interactive "island" on the renovated second floor. Photo courtesy of National Cowgirl Museum
Cowgirl Museum artwork
A piece by artist Donna Howell-Sickles that will go on display as part of "The Trail of the Cowgirl." Photo courtesy of National Cowgirl Museum
Cowgirl Museum renovations
Jon Snow Game of Thrones saddle, Cowgirl Museum
Cowgirl Museum renovations
Cowgirl Museum artwork

The time is drawing nigh for the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame to unveil a $5.5 million renovation project that's kept the second floor off limits for over a year.

On March 9, the Fort Worth museum will reopen the second floor — renamed the Kit Moncrief Galleries — and its new signature exhibition called "It’s Never Just a Horse." The entire floor will be dedicated to exploring the special bond between women and horses through the lens of many Cowgirl Hall of Fame honorees — and it will do so in modern, high-tech ways.

“The newly renovated Cowgirl Museum second floor pays tribute to the amazing relationship between women and horses and celebrates the partnerships which are so special to both,” says executive director Patricia Riley in a release. "The new exhibition and experiences are sure to engage and enthrall visitors of all ages.”

The whole floor is being called the Kit Moncrief Galleries in honor of board president Kit Moncrief and in recognition of a generous gift given in her name, the museum says. Projectiles, an international architect team based in Paris, France, has designed the new galleries.

In "It's Never Just a Horse," which takes up the majority of the space, visitors can expect five thematic “islands” — Ranching, Competing, Healing, Business, and Inspiring — each meant to explore how the horse connects with women through artifacts (some never before seen) displayed on the perimeter of each island. Interactive stations at each island will let visitors explore additional information, photos, and artifacts.

Lest anyone think those artifacts are dusty and crusty, one notable new one is the saddle Kit Harrington used when he portrayed Jon Snow in the blockbuster series Game of Thrones, loaned to the museum by Cowgirl honoree and horse master Camilla Naprous.

Twice an hour, the gallery lights will dim and visitors will be surrounded by horses coming from every direction, seemingly entering the gallery space with them. (Watch out for the stampede!) The horses will be large enough for a visitor to see them breathe, the museum says.

Another high-tech experience, designed with the interactive design firm Ideum, is a 65-inch platform multitouch table. Guests can design their own horse, Western shirt, and boots inspired by Cowgirl honorees like Fern Sawyer, Tad Lucas, and Connie Douglas Reeves.

"While the visitor is designing their chosen cowgirl piece, it will be projected on the walls around them, providing the opportunity to take a picture of their design to share via social media using #CowgirlMuseum," the museum says.

The Cowgirl’s popular, interactive bronc ride will be back, too, with new features and the ability to download a video to share with friends and followers on social media. 

To coincide with the grand reopening, Cowgirl honoree Donna Howell-Sickles’ "The Trail of the Cowgirl" exhibition also will go on display March 9 in the museum's Anne W. Marion Gallery. "Howell-Sickles’ blend of women, horses, and history is the perfect complement to the renovated second floor," the museum says.

Howell-Sickles, a Western artist from Saint Jo, Texas, was inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 2007 for her artistic work and the ability to take the image and idea of the cowgirl beyond charcoal lines and into reality.

“I use the cowgirl to tell very current stories for, and about, women using an eclectic collection of images and ideas from both the past and the present,” the artist says in a release.

To celebrate the opening of the new second floor, the Cowgirl Museum will stay open late the third Friday of each month, March 15 through December 20, for "cowgirl cocktails" from 5-7 pm. More event details to come.

For hours, admission prices, and more information, visit the museum's website.