Did you know you can see the very first photograph ever taken in the world right here in Austin? In fact, Austin museums contain a wealth of amazing things. Here are five you just have to see. Be sure to set aside plenty of time at each facility — these are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
The first photograph
Produced by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in 1826 or 1827, the first photograph is part of a photography collection at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas. The 8- by 6.5-inch image, the view outside Niépce's workroom window in France, took eight hours of exposure to produce. This facility also has a Gutenberg Bible and many other unique items.
The original Goddess of Liberty statue
This statue stood atop the Texas Capitol from 1885 to 1985 and is on display at the Bullock Texas State History Museum. The 16-foot high goddess, designed by Detroit's Elijah E. Myers, architect of the Texas Capitol, was installed on top of the dome in February 1888. In 1985, the State Preservation Board used a helicopter to remove the statue, which had not aged well. A new replica topped the building in 1986. The Bullock also houses enormous drill bits from oil wells, Mirabeau Lamar's shotgun, and many more one-of-a kinds.
A 292-pound meteorite
A meteorite is a natural, solid object from space that survives flight through Earth’s atmosphere and reaches the ground in one or more pieces. They can be predominantly rock (stony meteorites), mostly metallic (iron meteorites), or a combination (stony-iron meteorites). The stony behemoth on display at the Texas Memorial Museum landed in Kimble County in 1918 and was acquired by the museum. Plus: dinosaurs, a 925-carat blue topaz, and lots of fossils and animal specimens.
President Johnson's Continental black stretch limousine
The LBJ Presidential Library houses the limo that he began using in 1968. It has a TV, telephone, reserve gas tank, and specially designed communication system for contact with the Secret Service, but, unlike modern presidential vehicles, it has no armor. The library also has a replica Oval Office containing items from the real thing while Johnson was in office.
World War II memorabilia
Texas Military Forces Museum on the grounds of Camp Mabry in Central Austin contains a hat that belonged to German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. A 36th Division U.S. soldier found the hat in Rommel’s home, which was being used as a battalion headquarters by U.S. forces, and brought it home. There's lots of other military memorabilia here as well.