The Irving Archives and Museum (IAM) had closed shop in 2020 for remodeling. After being delayed by the pandemic, they were able to hold their grand opening and ribbon cutting on Nov. 13 with an Ice Cream Social. They had kicked off the celebration the previous evening with a “Rum Runners and Rug Cutters Party,” with patrons and staff dressed up in 1920’s attire, which was a nod to one of their current exhibitions, “Spirited: Prohibition in America.”
“It's just a great day for us to finally see the achievement that so many of the community members have put their hearts and souls into, and actually came to fruition today in the opening of this museum,” said Irving Mayor Rick Stopfer.
“Even through COVID, it just takes time. I mean, if you go back and you look at the many, many individuals who have kept this dream alive and this vision moving forward, and unfortunately, a lot of them are not with us anymore. And as I said to [Museum Guide and Irving Historian] Mary [Higbie], it'd be interesting to really put together a list of those individuals who kept this running all this time. I'm proud of the council and committees that we put in place which have continued to have a focus on this to make sure that we get an opening we get a chance for residents to see our arts and culture,” Stopfer said.
Emcee and Director of the Irving Arts and Culture, Todd Eric Hawkins, kicked off the celebration.
“Now before we get started, I want to recognize the dignitaries that we have in the audience today, starting with Representative Terry Meza. We also have Mayor Stopfer, Councilman John Danish. Councilman Allan Meager, Councilman Oscar Ward, Councilman and Mayor Pro-Tem Kyle Taylor, Councilman and Deputy Mayor Pro-Tem Al Zapata, and Councilman Mark Zeske. As you all get into place, I just want to acknowledge some other very important people. So, I'm going to acknowledge the groups whose 30 years of work has gone into putting this museum together,” said Hawkins.
Director of Museums for the City of Irving, Jennifer Landry, explained the process of having a Grand Opening.
“So, we had a soft opening on February 20, which means we weren't fully 100% operational. We got our operations under control and stuff when we soft-opened, and the plan was to have a Grand Opening in May of 2020,” said Landry. “Obviously, that did not happen because of the pandemic, and of course, it's just not been a safe environment. Moving toward a Grand Opening, we reopened fully in November, by reservation only," said Landry.
“We wanted to give people an opportunity to see the museum and be safe. But we felt with the spirit of a traveling exhibition coming in, which is about prohibition, it was just a great time to have a party, and to celebrate the opening of the museum. And we needed this milestone to raise awareness that we're open. Obviously, the news is focused on more pressing items than a museum opening. And it was just really hard to get the word out. So, this is hopefully going to help people know that we're here, we're open, and we're a safe place to visit,” Landry said.
“The Archives and Museum is about the city of Irving. It is about our history and about the broader history of North Texas, and also the national context. So, there's a permanent exhibition called the ‘Irving Story.’ And that looks at the history of Irving. It follows the city’s development through time, so there's a chronology where you learn about the progression and growth of the city. The Heritage Society brought free books today [about the history of Irving]. And then we have a temporary exhibition gallery, where we rotate exhibits every four to six months a year. We also have a community gallery space where we have a nationally traveling show right now, but at other times, we have community-based curated exhibitions. And then there's the Spark Lab, which is a Smithsonian program. We are the first in Texas to offer this space where kids get to learn how to be inventors. And it can be for adults, too. You don't have to be a kid. But it is geared toward kids, with themes of entrepreneurship and creating an event to come up with problem-solving ideas, and just basically a hands-on interactive space,” Landry said.
The Museum is featuring two temporary exhibitions currently. One is called "Two Minutes to Midnight," which takes a look at the architecture of Armageddon. This photography exhibition looks at spaces where the Cold War happened that weren't visible to the general public, like fallout shelters and missile silos.
The second exhibition is called, "Spirited: Prohibition in America, "which takes a look at the steps that were taken to pass an amendment that made it illegal to sell alcohol. Then, it covers the steps that led to repealing that amendment.
"So, it looks at the Hollywood version with the gangsters, speakeasies, and things like that. At the same time, we have the women's right to vote movement starting to gain steam. And then it also looks at the Civic side. So how does an amendment get passed? How does that happen where there's a movement in a country that actually tried to pass an amendment, like outlawing alcohol? So, it's a really good, rich exhibition on that history,” said Landry.
Mayor Stopfer took to the podium to cut the ribbon, announcing that the Archives and Museum were fully open and ready for visitors.
“I promise I won't run with scissors,” said Mayor Stopfer, holding up the giant ribbon-cutting scissors. “It's truly a pleasure to be here today. I really was going to try to thank some people, but I don't even want to start because there are so many people that have been a part of this for so many years.
"When I first got on the council back in the 90s, when Joe Putnam became mayor, that was when we really started to look at buying real estate. And one of the first pieces that we bought was from George and Carol Susat. We talked about potentially putting the museum in that building at that time, but then it really didn't work out. But under Joe, we were able to sell the bonds which we are utilizing to finish this project that we have here today. So, there have been many mayors that have been involved, as well as a lot of council members, and so many, many, many great citizens. So, on behalf of the Irving City Council, we're excited to cut the ribbon and move forward with this plan that's been in the works for at least 30 years,” Stopfer said.
Stopfer cut the ribbon and attendees enjoyed ice cream with toppings, as well as a table full of finger foods. The exhibits were open and free to attendees, and free hardback books about the history of Irving were available, donated by the Irving Heritage Society.