A New Texas House Bill Triggers Debate Over State-Funded Music Museums
Dallas radio personality and archivist George Gimarc is opposed to a state-run music museum
Critics of a new bill filed in the Texas House that seeks to establish a Texas music history museum say that even though their hearts are in the right place, their brains are somewhere else entirely.
HCR 75, a bill introduced in the Texas House last month by Rep. Senfronia Thompson, seeks to encourage the State Preservation Board "to establish a museum of Texas music history as a permanent and integral program within the [Bullock Texas State History Museum]." Two of the people behind the Texas Musicians Museum believe those efforts are misguided and could even undermine the work of private music history museums throughout the state.
"We're not against having other music museums," says Thomas Kreason, curator of the Texas Musicians Museum set to open soon in Irving. "What we're opposed to with this bill is that it was put through a process that wasn't intended for this type of bill in the first place."
Kreason and George Gimarc, the former music director of The Edge who also sits on the museum's board of directors, object to the involvement of the Texas Music Office in the state-approved museum project. They said that they not only lack the experience to mount such a project but it also ignores the work and collections of other music museums throughout the state.
"It was clear from the resolution that went up before the House committee that before that, they were weaving a tale about celebrating great music in Texas," Gimarc says. "That's something we all agreed upon, but they neglected to tell the committee about us and we asked them point blank if they knew we existed and they had no idea."
Gimarc says a music history museum shouldn't be established by the state because of the potential for personal taste and politics to interfere with preservation efforts.
"They're trying to fulfill a wish of having a museum that's trying to be an Experience Music Project or a Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame," Kreason says. "Those museums were created with private money and don't have any official status because then you don't have politics dictating pop culture and authorizing this band to be worthy of historic preservation. A lot of musicians don't want to be tangled up with government. It's a pretty good idea to just leave them apart."
Kreason explains that while state officials assured them that this bill wouldn't establish an official statewide music history museum, the state's financial involvement would significantly warp that designation.
"Although they claimed this wouldn't make anyone the official state museum, the state is sanctioning it with this group and helping them with money and funding," Kreason explains. "Though their intentions are very good and we can appreciate what they are doing, they still didn't have a plan, a feasibility study or even a collection."
The state's plans to establish a state music history museum don't feel like an honest effort of preservation and education, Gimarc adds. "We have a sense that they're not about putting together a museum to preserve and teach," he says. "They're creating an institution in which you can have a bunch of private moneymaking hanging off of it."
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Kreason thinks music museums all over the state need to be involved to preserve important artifacts and collections of the state's musical history instead of having one giant museum that casts a shadow over them.
"We're not against the concept but they're bringing a bunch of people who don't have the experience to implement this," Kreason says. "We already have museums like those. We're opening one in Irving and it's going to be about all genres of Texas music. We need to be preserving our [history] and building funds for people who don't have a collection because we're losing our history everyday."
Several attempts were made to reach a representative of Rep. Thompson's office and the Texas Music Office, but no one could be reached for an official comment.
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