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The Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum: The Samurai Collection

Small But Must-See Museums in Dallas, Texas

Posted at Fri, Mar 18, 2022 5:30 PM

Dallas is a city overflowing with history, culture, and art, and you can soak up all of it if you know where to look. You might know about Dallas' biggest and most iconic museums, but there are plenty of smaller museums in the area that pay tribute to niche topics with a mesmerizing amount of detail. To make sure you don't miss some of the most educational and inspiring experiences Dallas offers, we put together a list of five small but impactful museums in Dallas, Texas.

The Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum: The Samurai Collection

You might not know it, but Dallas is home to America's only museum dedicated to samurai armor. In fact, the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum: Samurai Collection is the only museum of samurai armor outside of Japan. Curated by art collectors Ann and Gabriel Barber-Mueller, this collection of over 1,000 artifacts is a visually stunning and informative tour of this period of Japanese military history. Explore weapons, masks, suits of armors, horse gear, helmets, and detailed pieces of art.

The Barber-Muellers change the exhibit twice each year to keep it dynamic, and they add pieces to the collection frequently, so consider visiting once in the summer and again in the winter for a fresh experience. To learn more about the role of samurais in Japanese history, explore the Samurai Collection's library of scholarly books or take home your own collectible from the on-site bookstore. The Barber-Muellers have a touring version of the installation that travels the globe. You can visit the museum in the Harwood district on the second floor of the Saint Ann Building, and admission is free.

Haas Moto Museum & Sculpture Gallery

If you love fast speeds, thrill rides, and clever engineering, you might appreciate the Haas Moto Museum & Sculpture Gallery, a small museum in the Design District dedicated to the history and art of the motorcycle. With over 230 bikes displayed, tracing the development of the motorcycle from 1899 to the present day, the Haas Moto Museum & Sculpture Gallery celebrates the science, history, and pop culture that surrounds the motorcycle. There are four major sections to the museum: History Hall, the Custom Shop, Avant-Garde Avenue, and the Racetrack, each exploring a different topic in motorcycle design and history.

You can peruse the sculpture gallery for metal works of art that pay homage to the motorcycle's form, including sculptor Serge Bueno's series of bronze racing bike sculptures. Leave the museum in style with a custom-painted leather jacket from the gift shop, or if you're not much of a biker yourself, you could opt for a book or a sculpture. This dynamic collection of bikes is a fascinating tribute to a staple of the American road, even for those who prefer a sturdy SUV over a rubber-burning bike.

Frontiers of Flight Museum

The Moto Museum isn't Dallas' only local tribute to a mode of transportation. The Frontiers of Flight Museum at Dallas Love Field Airport explores the sky without leaving the ground with over nine exhibits on aviation and space. This museum is home to over 40 larger-than-life air and space vehicles and over 35,000 artifacts that tell the story of flight's advent and development. Explore the interior of a 1967 Boeing 737-200, the second generation of Boeing's iconic plane, then visit the historic Apollo 7 Command Module, which is on loan from the National Air & Space Museum.

A collection of flight trainers and simulators offers a peek into the lives of aviation professionals. If you're interested in scholarship and research on air and space travel, check out the museum's well-stocked Research Library, filled with nonfiction resources about the history and engineering behind flight. With opportunities to climb into cockpits and learn the science behind flight, this local gem is a great educational experience for children who dream of being pilots or astronauts.

National Cowgirl Museum & Hall of Fame

For an empowering and educational tour through history, visit the National Cowgirl Museum & Hall of Fame in nearby Fort Worth. This museum explores the oft-forgotten contributions of women in the Wild West with exhibits, galleries, live shows, and a research library. The museum is continually expanding, with a new second floor, an upcoming exhibit on cowgirl fashion, and ongoing efforts to diversify the catalog of women featured in the museum.

The 243 members of the museum's hall of fame include Annie Oakley, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Sacagawea, exploring not just sharpshooters and rodeo stars but women who've made significant contributions to entertainment, culture, and politics. Current exhibitions focus on the relationship between cowgirls and horses and the role of performance and theater in the Wild West, plus you can peruse galleries of black and white photographs and collections of props, equipment, and costumes from a modern western television series. This inspiring museum is a tribute to womanhood, the American West, and the boundless strength these modern and historical cowgirls displayed.

The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza

On the sixth floor of the iconic Texas School Book Depository building, the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza explores the life and death of John F. Kennedy. While this one might not be the best for younger visitors, adults with an interest in American history will appreciate how thorough this small museum is. The museum contextualizes Kennedy's presidency with plenty of information about the social and political climate of America in the 1960s.

As some might know, the sixth floor where the museum sits was the primary crime scene, so a visit to the museum offers a unique experience that a history book can't quite capture. With artifacts from the FBI's Warren Commission, items that once belonged to Lee Harvey Oswald, and photographs from the time, the museum chronicles the events leading up to and resulting from Kennedy's assassination. The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza is a fascinating snapshot of a famous moment in Dallas history.

And that concludes our list of small but impactful museums in and around Dallas, Texas, according to Planet Ford Dallas. Do you think we covered the best ones? Do you have a favorite museum in the area that local roundups sometimes forget? Let us know about it and we're happy to add it. If you're not traveling Dallas by airplane or motorcycle, you might need a reliable car, truck, or SUV to get you around this richly historic city. If you're ready to find an affordable new or used car in the Dallas, Texas area, visit us at Planet Ford Dallas.

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