This South Plains Museum Is Adding On Phase III To Bring More People
Into The Agricultural Industry
The FiberMax Center for Discovery located in Lubbock, Texas, serves as an exemplary model for agriculture. Planned in three phases, the Alton Brazell Museum was completed in 2011. An exhibit hall, Plains Cotton Growers Conference Center, catering kitchen and outdoor patio were added in Phase II in 2014. The FCFD website states it “continues to evolve and serves as a living memorial to the thousands of farm families that were pioneers in agriculture.”
The Phase III addition will house a children’s agricultural literacy wing and a cotton heritage center. The Goodman Gin, a Texas gin that has been in existence for nearly 150 years will be a focal point. Lacee Hoelting, executive director for the FiberMax Center for Discovery, and Chris Berry, Board of Directors member and immediate past president of the Texas Cotton Ginners Association, speak on the Center and its upcoming additions in the following Q&A:
Q. Tell me a little bit about the FiberMax Center for Discovery and what drew you to invest yourself there.
Lacee: I grew up in this area, I was active in FFA, and as a state FFA officer, I traveled around the state talking to both rural and urban high school students about agriculture and how it was a part of their everyday lives. This was a continuation of that story. What started as a county historical collection has grown into an opportunity to educate the public on the importance of farmers and how far the industry has come. Our board of directors, volunteers, members and donors keep me engaged. They are passionate about cotton production, the ag industry and the history of the two on the South Plains. It’s a big job, but it’s easy to work hard when you believe in what you’re doing.
Chris: What drew me to the FCFD is how the Center is telling the story of agriculture. The FCFD has an extensive collection of artifacts and exhibits from our past. The new Phase III will house interactive exhibits that will hopefully inspire young minds in the field of agriculture and lead us into the future.
Q. What’s going on with the gin you’re moving? What makes it special, and what is the goal once in place? What do you think this addition brings to the table for the Center?
Lacee: I’m ecstatic to finally have a home for this historic gin and for the public to be able to experience it. The Goodman Gin will be the centerpiece of the Cotton Heritage Center. It will be housed inside the new building, so people will be able to tour it no matter the weather outside, and the gin will be protected for years to come. We are working with some great people to move the gin, and to develop exhibits in and around it. To walk through the structure, to see the hand-hewn logs, to understand the labor that went into cotton harvest, to examine the giant wood screw of the bale press, to get a glimpse of agriculture from nearly 150 years ago — that’s going to be worth a trip to Lubbock, no matter where you live.
Chris: The move of the Goodman Gin is drawing closer. What makes this timber frame cotton gin unique is that the Goodman Gin is the last intact example of a true animal-powered gin. This gin was built just prior to the mechanization of the commercial cotton gins of the late nineteenth century, as it was described in the Sept. 24, 1977, issue of The Cotton Gin and Oil Mill Press. The Goodman Gin will be the central exhibit of the Cotton Heritage wing in the Phase III addition to the Center.
What are the short- and long-term plans for the FiberMax Center for Discovery? How do you plan to accomplish these?
Lacee: Short-term is breaking ground on the new addition, completing the building and constructing top-notch exhibits, while we continue to serve our current members and guests. We want to get the word out and generate excitement for what’s coming. In addition to the children’s wing and Cotton Heritage Center, we will be adding more meeting space, rotating exhibit areas and a classroom. Long-term, we want to recruit more members and get more people involved. We want to keep exhibits fresh and bring in new pieces. We want to build our endowment and increase the amount of programming and services we can offer. We want to be a resource to the agriculture industry and a point of connection between the producers and the consumers. We want to tell the story of agriculture, with a lot of focus on cotton production.
Q. What would you say is the No. 1 thing you’d like others to know about the gin move? The Center itself?
Lacee: The Goodman Gin is unique, from the bale press being built inside the building to gin in any weather, to the mules that turned the entire bale box around the screw (usually the screw turned, and the box was stationary), as well as it being impressive to see and walk through. The FiberMax Center for Discovery is a nonprofit agricultural education and history center. While the next addition is a huge step in our development, to succeed, we are going to need support from farmers, people who work with farmers and those who benefit from farming. So in other words, we need everyone that eats or wears clothes to become a member, come take a tour or become a sponsor. We still have exhibit sponsorships available in the new building.
Chris: Through the efforts and generosity of so many within the industry, the Goodman Gin will now have a permanent home at the FiberMax Center for Discovery. I cannot think of a more appropriate home for the cotton gin. The FCFD will display the Goodman Gin as it was envisioned well over half a century ago.
Anything else you’d like to mention?
Lacee: Since starting here in 2008, I became a mom, and it changed how I viewed our museum. What appeals to me is not necessarily what catches my daughters’ attention. My grandparents farmed and ranched. I grew up around that world, but we have kids come in every day that have never been on a farm, sat in a tractor, watched a crop grow or tended livestock. In a small way, I hope we can give them a little taste of agriculture (no pun intended). The next great advancement in farming may not come from someone who grew up in the industry. It might come from the kid who visited an ag center in Lubbock, Texas, and looked at a problem differently.